Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A clever, insightful, and innovative romantic comedy
June is an awkward but brilliant math student who loves order, focus, and walking the path mapped out for her. She's been sleeping with her math professor for a year. Alice is impulsive, fiery, and 8 months pregnant with her first child. She's been married to June's math professor for twelve years. When the affair comes to light, the confrontation between the women is dramatic. June is horrified to learn of Alice's existence, and Alice is amazed to discover that she doesn't want to kill June after all. The delicate situation lends itself as a conducive environment for the two to forge an unlikely friendship, and perhaps a bit more.
Kristina Benton and Candice Lillian in This-That by Kotryna Gesait.
This-That by Kotryna Gesait is a deep, insightful, and masterfully written play about navigating life, love, and difficult circumstances. It is written and presented in the form of a romantic comedy, drawing from all the recognizable elements of formulaic rom-coms, while simultaneously sending them up to present realistic angles on what might actually happen at each step along the way. It is a play written in an innovative and engaging style, switching regularly between a story played out in scenes, and narrations by the protagonists breaking out of their main characters into secondary characters. It is a progressive work that doesn't dwell on the morality of the actions that led up to the start of the play, but rather on the individuals who are now in difficult situations and how they approach (and deal with) their problems.
The play is rich with strong lines and stirring subtext that makes the protagonists very real. Their instincts in life, in love, and in conflict are grounded firmly in events that have shaped them from a young age and continue to influence them well into adulthood. Their conversations follow a fascinating journey from a place of complete disjointedness in experience to the realization that they're not that different from each other after all. The harmony between the writing and the performances is one of this play's biggest strengths. Scenes like Alice's interrogation about June's sex life, and June's explanation of set theory and the concept of nothing, make the characters and their interactions very believable. The action of the play is structured purposefully to build up to periodic peaks, which succeed in making an impact. The turning point for June's character, in particular, is a powerful peak moment that evokes a deep emotional response while also intellectually causing all the elements of this drama to fall into place.
Candice Lillian and Kristina Benton deliver quality performances as June and Alice respectively. Lillian effortlessly pulls off the awkward math prodigy with strong characterization and comic timing that resonates well with the audience. Her character is so convincing that the first time she breaks out of it to switch into a narration role, it's a bit of a shock. But in a way that works - it highlights her versatility and control as an actor. Benton's character is a great mix of mature, emotional, and intimidating, and her performance is strongly naturalistic, which provides a wonderful contrast to Lillian's character and makes the play feel balanced and whole.
This-That makes excellent use of the upstairs theatre at The Butterfly Club. While the dedicated stage area is small, the show is expertly directed in a way that overcomes the inherent size limitations and creates an impression of a much larger space. The actors frequently use the aisle and backstage area to enlarge the performance space and successfully create the feel of an apartment with realistic dimensions. This artistic choice fits well with the frequent switching between scenes and narration, and with the other moments in the show that break the fourth wall (without once involving direct audience participation).
All in all, the show is a skillfully-woven combination of variety in themes, creative content/techniques, and performance styles that make for a very entertaining hour.