|Just looking at that makes you want to drink something.|
Ruben Guthrie is a 29 year-old creative executive of 'Subliminal', the most successful advertising company in Australia. After a celebratory night resulting in drinking way too much, Ruben's loved ones intervene by claiming he has a problem with alcohol, and ship him off to begin AA meetings. From there, his personal and professional life change dramatically to accommodate his new life of abstaining from alcohol, and the support network of Ruben is firmly tested.
|Lauren Orrell (Zorya) and Gyton Grantley (Ruben) sizzle with chemistry onstage. Hooray!|
The stand outs are found in the female cast - they were comprised of such vivacious performances that I feel I'll never tire of watching. Lauren Orrell, who in Ruben Guthrie makes her professional stage debut, plays Ruben's fiancée Zorya in a manner that is utterly charming. As Zorya, Orrell steals the stage with her portrayal that balances a weak attempt to emit an icy callousness, which is fragmented by a lovely tenderness towards Ruben which aches of compassion and naiveness. The chemistry between her and Grately is just explosive, oozing with sensuality and character that's both endearing and ultimately tragic. Kathryn Marquet plays Ruben's sponsor and later fiancée Virginia with an ingenious and sort of unnerving mix of a playful and happy-go-lucky girl that often dramatically jumps between being sportive and being utterly domineering and ferociously controlling over Ruben's actions. Marquet's character is so complex, a very sweet and quirky do-gooder who wants the best for Ruben but communicates this horrible, festering, controlling nature that's delivered in lines such as "I'll tell you when you're different" and "Your life is my life now." I literally shook my head in panic when she said those lines - it was just such an incredible achievement in communicating a subtext. Ruben's mother, played by the supremely talented Caroline Kennison, commands the stage so strongly with an air of maternal caring and wisdom, but also unearthed anguish. There were scores of moments where I was touched by the emotion found in her actions, but her soliloquy in the second act is nothing short of brilliant. I was practically moved to tears alongside her, as she regretfully acknowledges to the audience that the men around her have been slowly consumed by alcoholism while she has silently watched on. The performance that the ladies of the cast portray is simply stunning.
|Caroline Kennison (Susan) owning the stage with one of her numerous provoking moments.|
On a whole the show is excellent. Among the comedy there are so many fantastic, entertaining, and moving moments that resonated with me. What's so wonderful about Ruben Guthrie is that it's totally relatable. Most of its audience can totally identify and empathize with these characters on stage - it shows a facet of humanity that hasn't been attained in the mainstage La Boite shows this year til now. Since drinking is a gigantic part of our lives, the commentary on the attitude Australians have towards alcohol is fascinating since it's absolutely true - the ridicule Ruben receives from his father and his boss after requesting water rather than wine is totally spot on. The anger that Spencer erupts into, bemoaning how Australia has become infested by metrosexuals is undeniably a topical matter that Brendan Cowell has chosen to question at this point in time, and the acknowledgement of the problems of alcohol have become more prevalent due to organisations such as Alchoholics Anonymous seeking a change in awareness. The ingenuity of the text is found through its purpose to question our own association and moderation with alcohol. Says the boy who drank five beers within an hour after the show. Yewww!
There only aspect I wasn't thrilled with was the portrayal of Ruben's friend gay friend Damien. It comes across as really obnoxious. Loud and shameless, he emits the same persona as the Sassy Gay Friend where you just feel the need to eat some fire to get past how grating it is. I get the feeling if he was directed to tone down the outrageous actions and the chemistry between him and Ruben would have been much more intriguing. The moment where Damien breaks down after being called a 'faggot' seemed totally out of character since someone so flamboyant who regularly refers to himself in that manner... it seemed it would have made more sense if he had processed the thought internally and used his voice to express some disappointment. Anyway, one criticism for a 2 hour and 30 minute play isn't too bad.
|Darren Sabadina (Damien) and Gyton Grantley (Ruben) in the penultimate scene.|
Overall, Ruben Guthrie is a wonderful play to end the La Boite season. I'm tempted to call it beautiful, but that doesn't seem to be a term that's popular with anyone at the moment. With a top-notch ensemble of actors led by the charismatic Gyton Grantley, Brendan Cowell's text is vividly brought to life to examine the fragility of the human willpower and question our association with alcohol and note the effects of our actions on our surroundings (like David hitting my beer out of my hand and smashing it on the ground). Totally recommended, although prepare to feel emotionally drained and have an annoying inclination to control yourself the next time you reach for your sixth drink. A tour-de-force of emotion and drama that is worth seeing, two thumbs up.
Tickets for 'Ruben Guthrie' range from $28-$48 (or if we're besties, $18), and is showing until November . Book by visiting La Boite's website or by calling (07) 3007 8600. The photos on this page are taken by Al Caeiro
which I stole from the resources section of the La Boite website, but it should be okay because it's for promotional purposes so they hopefully make some more money, so don't try to make me the bad guy in all of this, but I'll have no problems with removing them.