John Patrick Shanley’s writing has certain hallmarks. Born in The Bronx, a number of his works, say the screenplay for Moonstruck (1988), and Doubt: A Parable (2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), are set in New York City. Others, like (1985 Tony award nominee) Hurlyburly, feature self-absorbed characters and rapid-fire dialogue. Where’s My Money? (premiered July 2001), brought to us by new independent company 7th Floor Theatre, has both … and some unexpected humour.
We begin with a chance reunion of wanna-be actress-with-unsuitable-limp Celeste (Bronte Carmichael), and accountant Natalie (Catherine Ward). The pair share more than past employment in the same office. Celeste’s unhappy with her stoner musician partner, seeking excitement elsewhere. Blunt Natalie has shed such romantic indulgences, spurning busboy Tommy (Callum Mackay) for a marriage that has brought financial security.
Divorce lawyer Henry (Leigh Scully) has similar ambitions, seeking to mimic the success of firm partner Sidney (Hayden Burke), as well as his reading material, say Crime and Punishment. There, a character may use their dire circumstances to justify some amoral action. Sidney has some sympathy for this, far more than he does for second wife Marcia Marie (Heather Bloom).
Over the course of the play, love and pragmatism, or morality and fulfilment, would find themselves in opposition. And, regardless of the characters’ entanglements, suspicions, or self-justifications, like it or not, sooner or later, debts have to be paid.
Well, I might have joined the dots a bit here. Director Beng Oh has done particularly well with scenes of sharp exchanges, where snarky lines earned solid laughs. Yet, whilst this slice of New York life has a lively, mustardy zing, it’s a touch short on hot dog.
The setup seems designed to make us think about whether infidelity could be excusable in an unhappy relationship, or whether romantic ideals are a foolish diversion from stability in these uncertain times. The wise-cracking often overshadowed this.
This may be a matter of pacing. An audience might have appreciated the odd pause to allow us to parse some new idea, and relate this to a past scene. We were denied this; even a number of scene changes (far from the slowest I’ve seen) had us distracted by some motor-mouthed but unnecessary advertisement.
However, the performance was certainly an entertaining ride. Shanley’s writing gifts the cynical Sidney some barbs at conventional western morality, like “’Monogamy is like a 40-watt bulb. It works, but it’s not enough.” Burke took full advantage, his flippancy earning good laughs. Ward’s Natalie convinced as the hard-nosed professional wanting more trust in her marriage. Her matter-of-factness served as an effective contrast to Carmichael’s Celeste, filled with girlish enthusiasm at recent self-discovery.
Where’s My Money? was a particularly impressive debut from 7th Floor Theatre, suggesting that they are a company to keep an eye on.
Where’s My Money?
The Burrow, 83 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Performance: Wednesday 27 November 2019 – 7.30pm
Season: 20 – 30 November 2019 (closed)
Image: The Cast of Where’s My Money? (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte