Rootless Cosmopolitan

Rootless Cosmopolitan

Rootless Cosmopolitan Rating

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With the title of “Rootless Cosmopolitans”, I half expected to turn up and see Carrie and the gals from “Sex and the City” sipping cocktails and comparing notes on the past week’s romantic adventures. Silly me. It refers to Stalin’s euphemistic pejorative for ‘Jew’. This was a play with far more to say on issues, such as terrorism, genocide, identity, war, and conflict.

Like the aforementioned television show however, despite its darker subject matter, Monstrous Productions, presenting Ron Elisha’s challenging play, manages to keep the laughs a plenty, with many a cultural joke that even Gentiles, like myself, easily relate to. Lured into a false sense of ‘lightness’ this makes the audio of the October 7, 2023 attacks when the characters are confronted with the news of the terrorism, hit extra hard. Taking both the atmosphere on stage and in the audience to a palpable knot in the throat.

Set in the offices of an internationally respected theatre company, Artistic Director Ira Brot, who like all of us in the arts, lives in fear of something he may say publicly via socials getting misunderstood and the catchword of the day “cancel culture” being firmly placed in his direction, navigates through an ever-changing world.

Where diversity and ticking boxes are placed ahead of vision, where Jewish people have been a persecuted minority, to on face value at least, overcoming adversity, to then be thrown back into depths of terror and racism. The weight of Ira’s people’s history, hanging forever over his past present, and future, is made even more apparent with the ghost of his mother, consistently in his ear.

Despite taking a small, struggling theatre company to the international stage in 6 short years, the moment the board feels the “optics” of having a Jewish Artistic director at the helm is no longer good for business, Ira Brot is thrown into a world where he strains to find his place. All the while his marriage breaks down, his assistant director uses his proxy vote to shoo him out, and he questions his privilege.

Packed into 90 minutes, “Rootless Cosmopolitans” bounds out of the gate strong, quick with the laughs, and instantly grabs our attention with fantastic acting, most notably from Babs McMillan, who steals the show as the ghost of Ira’s ever-quipping-dead mother, and a razor-sharp script. Despite the strong start, around the middle the script and direction felt a little lost, perhaps this was a choice to shadow the emotions, Ira, anchoring the story with an even and sympathetic performance by Anton Berezin, is facing.

With great turns from Seon Williams as Ira’s assistant and then the Artistic Director of her own company, and Emily Joy playing both board member and Ira’s wife, the play finds its feet again and gallops towards the finish line.

What made this a good night at the theatre, was how given the subject matter and the world we live in, it never felt preachy. It posed many questions and didn’t always tell us the answers. Like all the characters, the audience is left questioning our own privilege, struggles, and curious as to what boxes we tick and should the optics’ change, as it did for Ira, where would we find our place in this constantly changing, ever-scrutinizing world.

Review 3.5 Pineapples

35 Pineapples Ben Murphy

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Comedy Roulette – Take The Gamble

Comedy Roulette

Down one of Melbourne’s scenic laneways on a mellow Wednesday night in Theory bar, Comedy Roulette was about to begin. Hanging plants and disco balls adorned the booked-out show, which was filled with enthusiastic first-time attendees.

The premise was simple and clever – as our two bubbly, enigmatic hosts, Kru Harale and Olga Loitsenko, explained to us – behind the comedians on stage, a large spinning wheel was to be projected, containing a wide variety of prompts from “what Sydney hates about Melbourne”’ (which Hannah Sainty nailed – the good-looking people, and the good coffee) to “self-help titles that won’t sell”.

The wheel would begin to spin when the audience chanted, “Spin…that…wheel!”. The line-up of comedians rotates per show (much like the wheel itself), with this show featuring Suren Jayemanne, Diana Nguyen, Charlie Lewin, Hannah Sainty, Henry Yan, Zach Riley, Chris Nguyen, Aarti Vincent, Oliver Coleman, and the two fabulous hosts. A callout of “Who in the audience likes gambling?!” was met with a chuckle, and the games had begun – with the wheel’s prompts being a surprise to the comedians.

The show kicked off with Olga bantering with the front row and introducing the audience to a winning Estonian Eurovision song (and hilariously noting how widely Eurovision had been expanded for Australia even to be included).

Comedy Roulette

Oliver then made the audience giggle with his ‘enlightened’ persona, complaining about people meditating in public in Coburg. The laughs of the audience were magnified at various times throughout the night when jokes featured familiar Melbourne locations and tropes – later, the famously unclean Flinders Street Railway Station toilets would be the butt of a joke.

The comics employed various ways of engaging with the audience to spin the supposedly “voice-activated” wheel throughout the night, including stating “, We are a cult, and we must chant!”. Charlie didn’t miss a beat when the wheel had a momentary technical delay – he casually bantered with the audience like they were old friends, giving some sage words of wisdom – when your boomer Dad cracks it at one of your siblings – take that as an opportunity to add in your own personal crises to the mix.

After a quick drink break, the comedy took a more introspective turn, with topics ranging from Hannah’s reflections on the absurdities of health food shops to Suren’s thoughts on the complexities of religion, family dynamics, and the true crime genre (which Chris noted he loved listening to, but not partaking in). I laughed particularly hard at Zach’s recollection of a horrible past job in an unsanitary pub kitchen and when an audience member asked Aarti about her ‘worst Tinder date’, as she dryly explained that she was married before Tinder was even invented.

Henry charmed the audience with his awkward and endearing persona and stories. Diana’s candid anecdote about her mother’s horrified reaction to a previous comedy show entitled ‘Naked’ ended Comedy Roulette on a high, leaving the audience in stitches with her unabashed humour.

Throughout the night, each of the 11 comedians delivered an audience-engaging set of observant, clever, and witty jokes—the perfect mix of pre-prepared stand-up material and fast-paced improvisation. Comedy Roulette is a gateway drug to the upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival, in which many of the aforementioned comics will be performing. Take a gamble if you dare, as this is a room full of comedians to watch.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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Boeing Boeing – A Fun Ride On An Old Classic

Boeing Boeing

As the lights dimmed and the last few people made their way to their seats, I turned to my friend and said they should play the message tone familiar to anyone who’s hopped on a plane. Moments later, there it was, that familiar sound, followed by a tongue-in-cheek announcement mimicking cabin crew telling us the onboard entertainment would be live. It made me smile like a little kid getting ice cream. In an instant, I knew this was going to be fun, and I settled in for take-off.

Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing has been a theatre staple since its first French production in 1960, even made into a movie starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. Set in 1960s Paris, contemporary at the time, it’s aged into a retro comedy about a deceitful Lothario, Bernard, juggling three separate fiancés who are all air hostesses. Thanks to alternating airline schedules, each comes home for a short time believing they’re Bernard’s one true love while remaining oblivious to the others. The energetic farce kicks off when Bernard’s old friend Robert arrives, and interruptions to the schedules throw the routine into chaos, sending the women into a turbulent collision course.

Michael Mulvenna seems at ease playing the womanising Bernard, oozing sophistication and charm in the early stages and then descending into panic and terror as he loses control. Each of his three fiancés in their colour-coded uniform brought their characters to life with exaggerated accents and outstanding energy.

In red, there’s the confident and sassy American, Gloria (Laura Stead); in blue is the fiery and temperamental Italian, Gabriella (Gabrielle Rawlings); and in yellow, the carnal and loud German, Gretchen (Cassandra Gorman). (As an aside, the sets and costume design are terrific.) Luke Baweja does a great job as the nervous Robert, trying desperately to keep the women apart as they play musical rooms. His physical comedy often triggered the biggest laughs, and his manic nervousness created a sense of exhaustion whilst still allowing the fun to continue.

My highlight was Maggie Scott as Bernard’s long-suffering and grumpy maid, Bertha. Her sardonic French accent and defeated body language were constantly amusing, and she was a delight every time she shuffled onto the stage and sighed, ‘Yes, monsieur.’

While the play is a classic for good reason, the story risks becoming outdated, such as Bernard’s pride in his ‘clever’ deception and manipulation of women or Richard’s admiration of it. Luckily, it isn’t mean-spirited, and the women give as much as they get.

The play deals with Bernard’s womanising in a way that justice is served while still making everyone happy. Director Chrissie McIntyre rightfully focused on the tomfoolery and physical comedy to keep the audience laughing throughout. The cast attacked the material with energy and enthusiasm, which is vital in making a play like this work. It’s meant to be silly and fun, so if you don’t buy into the characters and absurdity of the situation, or if the actors hold back, you don’t laugh. Thankfully, I did, and so did everyone else.

Boeing Boeing is a fun, light-hearted retro romp that’s boarding at the Hunters Hills Theatre in Club Ryde until the 24th of March. Don’t miss your flight!

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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The Improvised Superhero Movie – Review

For those attending the Melbourne Comedy Festival, you have a few more days to see the exciting and enjoyable ‘The Improvised Superhero Movie’ presented by The Improv Pit at the UBQ Basement Blackbox Theatre.

This delightful 60 minute show is unique to every performance since it is Improv comedy. For those who are unfamiliar with the live entertainment form of Improv Comedy, each show is made up completely on the spot, unscripted, by an ensemble of improvisers. Styles of Improv can be theatrical or competitive in content, and are inspired by audience suggestions. Due to the spontaneous nature of Improv, each performance is a unique one off and will never been seen ‘exactly’ that same way again.

The Improv Pit seem to perform in a style pretty notorious to Chicago, and The Improvised Superhero Movie reflects this. (Often jamming on a ‘game’ or ‘tilt’ in the scene work.) The format of the Superhero Movie unfolds in a progression of scenes, very closely resembling a format called the Harold (But not an actual Harold). Ensemble members contributing frequently and frenetically to the story line as it evolves.

The night I attended saw a Robot superhero navigate Asimov’s three laws of robotics, while seeking to vanquish a Wiccan-Eugenic Villain with their murderous pet lizard in tow. All of this unfolded in the unsuspecting suburb of Nunawading.

Most players had characters and scenes in which they could shine, and while some parts of the story became chaotic with improvisers speaking over each other, the ensemble frequently course corrected and came back to the story line.

Anybody newer to watching Improv comedy, the success of a show generally rests on the ensembles ability to listen, share and ‘yes, and’ each other. The work is elevated when improvisers fully commit to character choices and use physicality to flesh out the imaginative environment they are performing within. This was all on consistent display at the show I saw with players negotiating any blocks they had inadvertently given another in their enthusiasm.

For those attending who are concerned about being called on to provide a suggestion for the show, do not fear. Only once was the audience asked to yell out suggestions for The Improvised Superhero Movie, that being the title of that evenings movie at the top of the show. This ensemble doesn’t seem to warm up the audience prior to asking for the suggestion, so here’s a tip!

Feel free to brainstorm some fun titles of a superhero movie, that don’t already exist, prior to the show. It will give you something to yell out when asked as an audience to do so. This will avoid inducing the common audience reaction of ‘panic’ to come up with something on the spot. Leave that to the ensemble!

‘The Improvised Superhero Movie’ – UBQ Basement Blackbox Theatre

Thursday 20th April – 7.30 pm

Friday 21st April – 7.30 pm

Saturday 22nd April – 7.30 pm

Sunday 23rd April – 7.30 pm

This review also appears in On The House

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