Wednesday, 21 June 2017

PLAYING HOUSE: Tulloch’s Wine & Roses is as amusing and thought-provoking as ever

ROSES ARE RED: Romance and heartache make strange bedfellows in the must-see dramedy.

DO cougars just wanna have fun? You might be left wondering the same thing after watching this season’s remount of Wine & Roses, the provocative between-the-sheets hit from David Tulloch, the playwright who never fails to leave a lingering impression or raise questions in his work that stay with you.

Last staged at the Pantry Playhouse a few years ago, with Rosie Murray and Fabian Barracks playing the secret cougar/cub lovers, Wine & Roses has lost none of its charm or brow-raising candour. If anything, its acute meditation on complicated adult relationships, pride, secrets and family ties feels more relevant than ever.

True, there are hiccups here and there, and the final moments feel a bit rushed, but it’s a show that entertains your socks off, thanks to a clever, resourceful director and a committed cast that trusts him entirely.

Angela Jarrett (very commanding) stars as Carol, a 45-year-old businesswoman who, when it comes to play time, likes her boytoys virile and full of vitality. Eighteen-year-old Jonathan (Ackeem Poyser, terrific) fits the bill, plus he’s attentive, intelligent and eager to please. But after six months, the relationship has hit a lull. Carol wants other things, but Jonathan is in love and desperately clings to her. His God-fearing, single mother Joyce Carter (a fired-up Terri Salmon) would have a fit if she found out about the affair.

And what’s worse, Carol’s temperamental estranged husband Edgar (Michael Nicholson in his most serious role to date) could re-enter the picture at any moment. And so he does, revealing a painful secret that’s been eating away at him for months. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Rodney Campbell, convincingly playing Deeko (a rough-around-the-edges mechanic and Jonathan’s go-to guy for advice), alongside Sabrina Thomas (appearing as Alicia, Jonathan’s boy-crazy schoolmate who wants him all for herself) round out the six-member cast.

The detailed set design (a split between Carol’s digs and the Carter residence), and the apt lighting, make strong contributions to the show’s overall success. 

Wine & Roses is populated by people who make interesting life choices that come back to haunt them and, as testament to Tulloch’s skills, they are well-crafted, believable characters that pull you into the story, taking you on a rollercoaster ride that, in spite of its flaws, amuses and provokes serious thought. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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