Edinburgh Fringe 2010
"An elegant couple jigger and joust their way to the ultimate nightcap. Surreal comedy from Fringe First-winner, Brian Parks". In spite of a razor sharp script and sparkling performances from the two actors, Imperial Fizz falls a little flat.
In Sartre’s Huis Clos, hell is other people. In David Park’s play, Imperial Fizz, hell is a couple trapped in a perpetual cocktail hour. The dialogue is scintillating and the delivery fast and furious and yet somehow Imperial Fizz fails to sparkle.
Somewhere in a New York apartment, a couple pace the floor mixing cocktails, recapping their lives and waiting for a vital guest. From the outset, the wit is like quick fire and rapier sharp. Imperial Fizz is Brian Park’s take on 1930’s high society, a potent cocktail mix of 1930s comedic films with a sharp-edged film noir resonance. Brittle and deeply satirical, Imperial Fizz pulls apart America’s highball drinking classes to reveal the emptiness behind the alcohol.
A bantering, cocktail swigging couple initially seem merely amiable and entertaining, but are eternally stuck in a trap constructed out of their own indulgence, endlessly repeating their own patterns consigned to their own interminable Groundhog Day. David Calvitto, debonair and dashing in singed tuxedo, as always puts in an immaculate performance. Issy van Randwyck, similarly frayed at the edges, provides the perfect sparring partner. The couple deliver their lines at breakneck speed – point, counter-point. The word play and puns come so thick and fast that while you’re still laughing, you miss the next one.
Endlessly picking over their past, the couple’s relationship is a hard-edged dissection of male-female relationships when two people connect on the upper echelons of high society superficiality. They examine their marriage and their different interpretations of it, pull out lovers and past grievances, and wonder idly if they should perhaps have tried harder with their estranged son, their expectations and disappointments played out on one another. They call witnesses from their past for the prosecution and the defence, Calvitto and van Randwyck ably playing a variety of characters interacting with each other and even with their own characters. Sashaying through the cocktail hour, tripping the light fantastic with dance and song, Calvitto and Randwyck’s couple assume more repellent proportions as their story is played out.
While all the while static and crackling from a wireless stops the action and leaves them waiting for that all important guest, signaling that darker edge to this play that lurks behind the cocktail trolley.
But the characters are brittle; there is nothing behind the action. While the characters are sharp and well defined, ultimately we just don’t care; there is just no engagement only a witty send up of a vacuous society with nothing of any substance to say. In spite of impeccable credentials, Imperial Fizz fails to truly sparkle.