Sexual Perversity in Chicago
|Living Pictures in association with Cegin Productions , Sherman Cymru, Cardiff , February 13, 2013|
|Any men discussing their latest conquests are bound to exaggerate just a little, but middle-aged womanizer, Bernie’s story is so farfetched it has to be true! Robert Bowman (who also directed) revels in the delightfully dirty language of this aging Lothario and is certainly the driving force behind the breakneck speed of the production.
Made up of thirty short scenes the action takes a whistle-stop tour of the singles scene in 1970s Chicago. The wonderfully understated set design by Jacob Hughes plays in the round, with brave members of the audience sat right next to the actors and the others looking down from the balcony. A set of filing cabinets serve a multitude of functions – bar stools, tables and from their drawers are revealed all the props required.
Younger co-worker Danny (Ioannis Sholto) looks up to misogynist Bernie so much we already know any romantic attempts will fail. Yet he is soon moving in with Deborah (Lizzie Rogan), an independent and optimistic illustrator. Without much time to blink she is moving out again, going back to acid-tounged, school teacher Joan.
Although the plot focuses on the brief romance of Danny and Deborah it is the older characters that have most impact. Joan and Bernie are both bitter about the opposite sex and are not afraid to be verbal about it. Quite why they are so damaged is never revealed but both steal the show with their sordid tales or schoolroom mishaps.
The story ends pretty much back where it started, with two single men ogling ladies. Although a very clever dramatic and comedic device it leaves very little room for any character development. Combine this with the fact that none of the characters are particularly likeable and it leaves you feeling a bit cold – struggling to feel any empathy for these four sad singletons.
Having said that the laughs come thick and fast, Mamhet’s dark comedy gives a hilarious snap-shot of the times. At its premier it was surely shocking and groundbreaking; nowadays you have to do more than say the C-word to get a reaction out of most. Perhaps the shock factor has been toned down but men and women never really change, the attitudes shown by these dysfunctional daters are just as common in 2013 as in 1970.
Definitely worth seeing for the vibrant strength of the cast, the 70s disco tunes and Danny’s handle-bar moustache.
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