There’s a beautiful economy about Red Stitch’s production of American Song: Darryl Cordell’s minimalist brush of sky and wheat along the stage walls; Bronwyn Pringle’s natural lift and lower of the lights throughout the play, before a cascading moment of magic realism at its conclusion; and Patrick Cronin’s sparse and plaintive music – as mournful and searching as Andy’s experience – broken up by hopeful notes of birdsong.
On top of these is Joe Petruzzi’s performance, lifting Joanna Murray-Smith’s words off the page to offer moments of awareness that unpack themselves into things much bigger and more complex.
Petruzzi plays Andy in a steady, endearing sort of way. Nothing feels rushed or wasted, which is a fine temperament to have when you’re building a dry wall. With each piece of stone Andy places, he examines each piece of his life that’s lead him here, finding no easy answers.
Like the books, There’s Something About Kevin (Lionel Shriver) or Running Wild (J. G. Ballard), there’s a dark reckoning at the centre that Andy is able to recognise, but not explain. What happened to his life? What happened to his country?
There’s no didacticism, it avoids hokum politics or hand-wringing moralising. There’s only a father’s measured recall of life and of immeasurable horror. You come to understand that the best quality of the text and in Joe’s stunning performance is the storytelling. It’s a remarkable work that lingers and deserves to be seen.
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East
Performance: Sunday 15 October 2017 – 6.30pm
Season continues to 5 November 2017
Information and Bookings: www.redstitch.net
Image: Joe Petruzzi in American Song – photo by Teresa Noble