It was back-to-back cabarets and beards at The Blue Room last night, as we took a look at two music-filled one-man rom-coms playing until this Saturday: This Boy’s in Love by Adriano Cappelletta and The Man and the Moon by Variegated Productions.
This is Adriano Cappelletta‘s ‘big gay’ cabaret.
But these are deceptive little descriptors, to be fair. Let’s analyse.
BIG: well, it’s just Cappelletta, his pianist Nick, a piano and a hatstand, so it’s hardly the Ben-Hur of the theatre world. It’s playing at The Blue Room, which is hardly Carnegie Hall.
That being said, Cappelletta is a BIG performer, and his little cabaret is absolutely bursting at the seams. He plays two main characters: himself as the Italian-Australian freelance theatre artist ‘Ado,’ and his love interest, ‘Felix,’ a human rights lawyer with stacks of cash and class plus a big love for Ado. In addition, Cappelletta works in a few other voices, such as ‘Chardonnay,’ one of Ado’s underprivileged students, an ex-lover/cafe waiter, and a spot-on smoking French guy, whose significance I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers. Even with all these characters spinning around in his head and all over the stage, Cappelletta avoids chaos with the help of some very specific movement and gestural choices to delineate personas.
And aside from Cappelletta’s big performance, let’s not forget he’s talking about the biggest theme of all time: LOVE.
GAY: ok, yes, Cappelletta is gay. Or at least, Ado is, anyway. And he tells us the story of two men falling in love, moving in together and getting married. But Cappelletta’s love story is just as much universal as it is gay, because – surprise! Gay people and straight people often want the same things out of their relationships! And as I sat watching, listening and laughing to Cappelletta’s story, its characters and its songs, I related.
You see, it feels like he’s written this for everyone who ever longed to love and be loved in return, who ever felt unworthy of someone else’s love, who ever panicked in the face of unconditional love. And that covers a lot of people, regardless of their orientation or preferences.
Now, the last thing I want to do is minimise the fact that this IS a big gay rom-com, because those descriptors are just as important as anything else about this show. In a political climate where bigoted jerks are still denying gay people the right to marry in Australia, this big gay cabaret demonstrates so clearly why gay love, gay marriage and gay cabarets are good for us all. It’s still vitally important that gay voices are heard and gay stories are told, loud and proud.
This is a sweet, funny, clever and polished show, with excellent direction from Johann Walraven, movement direction from Julia Cotton, as well as musical direction and occasional interjection from Nicholas Tipping. A nice little gem in the Summer Nights season.
Another feather in the Blue Room’s cap is Variegated Productions‘s The Man and the Moon written by and starring St John Cowcher, directed by Mark Storen.
It’s an unusual love story between an ordinary man and that extraordinary rock that orbits the Earth, the moon. It’s a little bit of magical realism meets Office Space wrapped in jazz.
A man lives a fairly boring suburban life, works in the marketing department of a nameless company, and gets invited by his least favourite co-worker Phil’s house for a suburban barbecue. The man gets drunk, blind drunk, and ends up in a ditch, where he sees the most beautiful vision of a woman he’s ever seen. He falls in love then and there even as he watches her drift away to the sky. It was the moon, and he has fallen under her spell.
How does a man deal with falling in love with an inanimate object, much less a giant one named Selene that lives in space and is more elusive than a muse? She comes and goes, waxes and wanes, and can’t be pinned down. It’s not ideal, but it’s what he’s given, and he lets her take over his days and nights.
Once again, we have a very polished show. Cowcher’s delivery is straightforward as he narrates his character’s journey, describing events at a clip; his singing is expressive and sincere. The band, led by Brett Smith on drums and tenor sax (and a bit of clarinet), along with Gabe Fatin on piano and Djuna Lee on upright bass, are an excellent trio, blending beautifully and accompanying Cowcher seamlessly. Brett Smith shines on the tenor sax, and it would be worth seeking out his non-theatre musical endeavours for more.
The show doesn’t quite have the emotional hook it needs to send it to the next level, though I think the potential is there. Perhaps it’s either too far-fetched or alternatively it needs to be even more far-fetched; perhaps a little more quirkiness wouldn’t go astray, or perhaps even more emotional immediacy rather than straightforward narration. But then again, that may not be true to Cowcher’s style or voice as a writer. In any case, it’s an enjoyable piece, and Cowcher is both a gentleman and a scholar, and an affable storyteller.