I'm a freelance writer living in the Adelaide Hills.
A production that asks a genuine question of its audience
Emily has it all... or does she?
Written by Stephen Metcalfe, and first performed in Los Angeles in 1986, Galleon Theatre Company's 2021 Emily is a character-driven, comedic outing that asks whether personal success is defined wholly by material wealth and temporal power, and if it preordains singlehood for those who aspire to it, especially women.
In an eighties kind of role-reversal, Emily (Jess Carroll) is a cynical stockbroker who mixes it with male competitors, until she meets John (Stephen Bills), an eighties SNAG prototype with no money, but who senses the real Emily beneath her career-focused exterior. The play's challenge in 2021 is to have us believe that Emily really does eschew aspirations of having it all: the loving relationship with kids as well as the career, the money. The former was hard enough for a woman in 1986 and there was definitely no social pressure to keep up with the Kardashians. And this play is set firmly in the eighties.
Do nice guys finish last?
The play is billed as a comedy and while there were no shortage of amusing moments, the play is Brechtian theatre of ideas. It presents a fundamental dilemma: humanity against materialism. The Manhattan backdrop remains a constant throughout, to remind us of the materialistic universe inhabited by its characters. While the 21 set and lighting changes throughout Act One are clever and Emily's costume changes seamless, the action could be tighter, especially amongst the men in Emily's universe.
Manhattan backdrop reminds you that we are in Wall Street and greed is good
These fellow stockbrokers are conceived from the heart of the 1980s Wall Street 'Gordon Gekko-greed is good' amorality. Fields (Adam Schultz), McCarthy (Josh Van't Padje), Hill (Aled Proeve), Stein (Chris Dewar), and Emily's dad and boss Hugh (Andrew Horwood) are entitled, misogynist, greedy and manipulative enough to fit right in with most of Australia's current Federal cabinet, but some cut lines and tighter comic timing could have shaved some minutes from Act One and enhanced the impact of the Act break climax.
Emily's bestie Hallie (Leanne Robinson, with a convincing Brooklyn accent and – best seen when she attempts sit-ups - a penchant for physical comedy) declaims entertainingly but inconclusively on love and best case scenarios. Emily's divorcee mom Deirdre (Therese Hornby, in a chillingly focused outing) appears too intent on her own fragile emotional well-being to be much assistance.
Act Two is shorter and Emily's dilemma becomes more sharply drawn. Carroll and Bills shine as the relationship is put to the test. The writing seems sharper, as does the action. The audience is asked a number of questions by what unfolds. Galleon Theatre Company has gone one better than most community theatre groups. It has mounted a production that asks genuine questions of its audience. It is worth seeing, to figure out what your answers might be.