It’s My Party (And I’ll Die If I Want To) [FringeTIX]
Heartspace Theatre Company @ The Irish Club
8:40pm, Mon 2 Mar 2009
Usually, I feel a tremor of fear when I discover that a production is either (a) a student production, or (2) a recently ex-student production. It may sound harsh and conceited, getting in the way of judging things on their merits, but that tremor allows me to approach such productions in such a way that I limit my potential disappointment; not every play can be a polished masterpiece, an Ota or a 3 Dark Tales or a 4:48 Psychosis or a Strindberg (In Paris). Yes, it means that such shows usually result in a “potential” analysis from me, but at least I don’t exit every show thinking “heap of shit.”
The thing is, none of that matters with It’s My Party – because so much of it is Just Plain Bad.
The wrongness starts with the opening scene – Samuel Hakendorf is hopelessly miscast as Ron Patterson, who – with 111 minutes left to live – has gathered his family together to break the news of his impending death. Patterson is supposed to soon be a grandfather; Hakendorf, even with makeup, looks less than half my age (which he probably is). Kirsty Wigg’s Dawn (Ron’s wife), is likewise unconvincing (though amazingly attractive), and their three children don’t fare much better – Emily Ferrier’s Karen is by far the most compelling actor, her siblings being either implausibly soft and weedy (the supposedly hard-nosed businessman of Simon Moorcroft’s Michael) or annoying shrill and thankfully underused (Emily Ferrier’s Kathy).
The plot is right out of a British 70’s sitcom – Dad calls the family meeting, kids have some important announcements of their own (Michael’s getting a divorce – and is gay; Karen is single – and pregnant), and purported hilarity and overacting ensues, with Ron using the word “poofter” with gay (ho ho) abandon. Riotous! The second act actually is a bit better – the premature arrival of the undertaker yields a few additional laughs, despite Joshua Koster’s soft acting – and the final, laboriously over-the-top knocking-from-beyond-the-grave gag still raised a smile.
Can a production that’s hopelessly miscast, humour-by-numbers, and presented by generally weak actors with no stage presence actually be entertaining? Well, a little – but there was only about 5 solid minutes of enjoyment in a show that stretched for nearly two hours. Still, the majority of the audience loved it – then again, I’m guessing they were family and friends. I was neither of those, and I could have happily forgone those 5 minutes of enjoyment to have those two hours back.
That tremor of fear? Sometimes it’s justified.