Maybe the reason an American play gets its world premiere in Dublin is that it’s not really good enough to be made in America? It was a somewhat cruel speculation, but unfortunately it came to mind after sitting through Looking at the sunan AboutFACE product at Smock Alley in Dublin.
Author Emily Bohannon places a group of people huddled in a weekend beach house that is said to be reminiscent of the east coast of America. They are (of course) the bad guys and are looking for trouble, despite their stated intention to “have fun”.
For Tabitha, boredom with her husband (understandably) is taking a quick turn. For Ronald, it was recreating his childhood by eating cotton candy (cotton candy this side of the pond) on the boardwalk. As for Ronalda, also bored, she is falling asleep from the fatigue of parenting. You get the idea.
Adding to the round of edges is a “serious” human psychological probe. | I’m kidding you not; in a play that takes the format of a very tame 1970s sexual farce. Like: Bernie and Tabitha have imaginary kids they worry about. (I think I heard Edward Albee, the creator of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? turned in his grave).
And recently divorced Vaughn is following his therapist’s instructions by writing/speaking aloud letters to his future girlfriend, but still unanswered. And he’s the one who gets the sofa bed, complete with filthy linens from the previous tenant (hilariously: it’s not.)
And intruding from next door are Gay Michael and Straight Michael, Australian friends from kindergarten, who always share the same house while unsuccessfully searching for love. They are currently touring America with that in mind.
And of course, there’s the screaming and misunderstandings, the panic of ignorance, the scenes where people are dumbfounded (?) Extremely funny when the bell rings at 5pm to start drinking. Oh, and capture the moody teenagers who aren’t in the mood at all, and seem a bit old-fashioned for holding hands with siblings.
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Oh, and yes: the disappointment will be sorted out and the jostling will continue.
It really has its moments in the second half, but needs the pen of a screenwriter who, if done well, gets cut. Looking at the sun at least half.
Director Kathleen Warner Yeates doesn’t convey much humor. Much of the humor isn’t present, while adding to it an overall lack of imagination with dialogue delivered in a straight-line format throughout the stage.
And while the cast is clearly straining to do their best, there’s a sense that they don’t really have a combined purpose.
Also, while budgets are a perennial issue for fringe companies like AboutFACE, a little light of imagination could have been enhanced on Kathyann Murphy’s shaky, thin cardboard set consisting of a single wide panel.
Look at the Sun in Smock Alley until September 3, and then move on to the Civic in Tallaght.
Aisling O’Mara’s Next played at St Stephen’s Green last summer as part of the Bewley’s Cafe Theater walking season. It has now been moved into the theater, with a 50pc cast change.
It’s fundamentally different this time around, but almost no less interesting. Joe is a cashier operator at Tesco, having a healthy lesbian sex life after a brief marriage breakdown.
Melissa is a nurse who was dumped by her (male) fiancé two years earlier with excruciating pain when she heard the news of the birth of a child in his new relationship. On purpose, they arranged to meet at a bar after flirting in the store. Both are hard biscuits, but still be prepared to be surprisingly hopeful.
What follows is a solid crack of a comedy combined with latter-day wisdom about maneuvering through our present-day confusion. There are at least the top three, a few major misunderstandings, a lot of self-doubt… and underneath is a desperate search for connection. This is a wisdom as well as a fun mini-game.
Hazel Clifford has replaced Sarah Morris as Joe, with the author retaining the role of Melissa. It shifts the balance, with director Iseult Golden allowing Clifford to interpret more positively than her predecessor; it adds to a less certain outcome and increases the overall severity.
But it’s still a pretty obvious joy in the Andrew Murray scene, lit by Colm Maher.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/looking-at-the-sun-tame-lengthy-farce-lacks-humour-and-imagination-41938793.html Looking at the Sun: A lengthy, overpowering farce that lacks humor and imagination