Friday, 31 January 1997

Hearts: A Poster of the Cosmos, Jan 31, 1997

Written by Lanford Wilson
 By Torino Spettacolo with IRAA at Theatreworks until Feb 9, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert round Jan  31, 1997

Valter Malosti's performance in Hearts:  A Poster of the Cosmos is, at times, so frenetic it is painful to watch. His character's grief and his need to tell the story of his great love for his partner are palpable.

Malosti was acclaimed here in 1993 for his exceptional performance in the monodrama Ella. Although this piece is in some ways less effective and there are some language problems, Malosti's performance is vigorous, skilful and intensely physical. As Tom, the American baker, he is volatile and emotionally fragile as he skips like a child about the cavernous, empty black space of Theatreworks.

The outer layer of this text by U.S. playwright, Lanford Wilson, is Tom's interrogation by the police after the death of his lover. The other inner layers are more metaphysical and psychological. As he cavorts about, we are drawn on an elastic thread into his desperate and confused internal world.

Malosti is accompanied onstage by the thrilling voice and evocative music of cellist, Ezio Bosso, who is both a dark commentator on the action and an echo of the dying AIDS victim, Johnny. He tilts into light, gaze averted, cello (or double bass?) dragging behind, only to swing into sound and action on cue. It is a stunning collaboration of actor and musician.

Malosti and co-director Tommasso Massimo Rotella do not rely on theatrical paraphernalia. The set is a collection of rough chairs, a cloth and words chalked on a black floor. This is an Actor's Theatre piece: uncluttered, focussed on the character's tortured world as he confronts madness and grief.

Corridors of light entrap and enclose Tom as he reveals his story. He quotes snippets from Bukowski, Vonnegut and Shakespeare. Finally, he stands at the centre of a cross reciting Emily Dickinson's, "Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me."

In spite of some language ˆı problems, this is an exciting addition to the St. Kilda Writer's Festival and a credit to the Italian Cultural Institute and IRAA who have brought the show here.


No Man's Island, Jan 31, 1997

 by Ross Mueller
La Mama until Feb 16, 1997
Reviewed by Kate Herbert round Jan 31, 1997

In crisis or in pain sometimes only a companion, a partner, a comrade can shift us out of depression or away from madness. 

 It doesn't even seem to matter who the companion is. It is simply the sharing of the problem, the caring of another human, the warmth of another body or the sound of a voice that breaks the terrible spell of loneliness, loss and anguish.

In No Man's Island by Ross Mueller, two men are incarcerated and indeed isolated in a cell. Rob (Aidan Fennessy) is an uncomplicated, uneducated, child-like soul who prays secretly for his dead father and reads letters from a non-existent big brother. Tim (John F. Howard) teeters on the brink of sanity, screaming in his nightmare-filled sleep, pining for his lost child.

Initially, the two have clear roles: Tim is father; Rob is child. But as their drama evolves the boundaries become muddied. Their shared confusion and vulnerability, their social and psychological incompetence, their incomprehension of their human plight are the very elements that may be their salvation. They are helpless victims in an irrational world but maybe, just maybe, their companionship may get them through.

Fennessy gives a compelling performance as the naive man-child, Rob. His is a moving emotional journey from playful, unthinking boy to shattered young man. Howard is edgy and unpredictable as Tim, always appearing to be on the brink of some wild and unexpected response. The two work superbly together. Their rampantly blokey indoor footy match is a highlight.

Peter Houghton deftly directs the piece with great sensitivity to the nuances of Mueller's script. Paul Jackson's simple scaffold design effectively contracts the space visually but allows plenty of room to move in the tiny La Mama space. The ladder up to the golden glow of the ceiling trap door is a constant reminder of the impossible dream of escape and the Heaven for which Rob wishes.

This piece is not all dark tragedy. It is a celebration of companionship with some very funny and truthful moments between men which revealπ their weakness and their combined strength.