Cleo's Stratos at Cracked Actors Theatre - Review

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Posted 2023-11-16 by Jenfollow
Images © Dave Swann

With a cast of 5 - Paul Robertson (husband Phil), Ruth Katerelos (wife Mary), Shylie Arzouan (daughter Cleo), and Jonah Fleming & Eliza Stone (Herald), Opening Night of Cleo's Stratos was fully packed and according to audience reaction, a resounding success. Phil Vitaliforos has just retired, and his wife Mary is looking forward to that 2nd honeymoon cruise 40 years late. Free from the shackles of work, the dream of holidaying together is short-lived as their daughter Cleo with woes of her own, arrives on their doorstep for an indefinite stay. There's always been tension between Cleo and her father. Try as they might, she and her father are either polar opposites or too much like each other and always at odds. At a time when Phil and Mary are meant to be enjoying retirement, a contagion lifts its ugly head. No place is spared the chaos of the Delta Disease, not even Warragul Road, deep in Oakleigh South where they live. The lockdowns, the restrictions, the crumbling businesses; especially hospitality; their radio a herald of truth.

"Men plan, God laughs" - or - "Man proposes, but God disposes" comes to mind. That is the role of the Heralds; angelic-looking as they are, they herald bad news through an earthly radio and hover over mere mortals, toying with them at will. Making the most of what they can during lockdown, this family soldiers on. Stuck with each other, in spite of their initial arguments about environmental issues and sustainable work practices, over time there's almost a truce between father and daughter as they begin to work together. As a way to change their relationship and get to know each other more, Phil invites Cleo to help him build a replica of the world's greatest rally car - the Lancia Stratos. A necessary project for Phil to keep himself busy while he eases into retirement. Mary is beside herself, tools and car parts instead of a cruise; however, ever forgiving, she busies herself in her garden, and buries her woes in the soil.

A new play by Canberra-based playwright and poet Peter Heavenheld and Directed by Matthew Richard Walsh, Cleo's Stratos harks back to a classical Greek tragedy - Phaethon and the Sun Chariot. Its influence lent itself to what was to be the original title - The Thief who stole the Chariot of Helios. You'll have to come watch the play to discover the layers of meaning in the title that runs parallel to Helios. A Cracked Actors Theatre's presentation of a Heavenheld Production, the play is careful to avoid being all about the contagion. It is first and foremost a family drama and focuses on the family dynamics and how they function and deal with conflict during tough times. Their destiny is under the control of a radio that heralds nothing but more bad news each waking day; the Heralds there to remind them who's really in charge.

Paul Robertson (Phil) does most of the heavy lifting with the most dialogue throughout this nearly two hour long play inclusive of an interval. Paul's acting prowess is never in doubt. He commands the stage in a larger than life manner as he displays boyish enthusiasm when things go his way; charisma and charm when he needs to worm his way back into the affections of his other half; a glint in his eye when he dances oh so sweetly around the stage; and the necessary poker face that hides his feelings when dealing with Cleo. His role the largest portion, gives him the opportunity to display every facet of his talent. The Heralds do well in their quiet manner in the background, a look of mischief here and there, looking heavenly like young Gods. Ruth Katerelos as Mary gives a strong a performance in a very natural matter-of-fact way as the long-suffering wife, yet displays strength in how she stands up for herself. She's a wise one, and knows not to butt her head against a brick wall. Shylie Arzouan as Cleo makes the most startling, unexpected impact in this modern Greek-Australian classic. A fitting end that surprises with its intensity that sees the play out perfectly!

Gather your mates and grab a few tickets (or call 03 9521 2571) - Full $36| Concession $25.50| Group of 4 $124 | Party Pack (10 tickets or more) $25.00 each; before the play leaves the building on Sunday 26 Nov 2023 (last day) at CAT (Cracked Actors Theatre), Level 1, 34 Lakeside Drive, Albert Park. Support independent theatre and enjoy live shows (this play a reminder of a time we couldn't), and our lovely actors who put their passion, heart and soul into their performances. Have a date night with a difference. Follow CAT on social media and stay tuned for their next fantastic event, and announcements of some current specials for Cleo's Stratos.

270612 - 2023-11-15 21:46:34


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