Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Moving house can be stressful. But this is one case where the selling lunatics really are running the asylum.
American playwright Brian Parks has a reputation for producing fast-paced, tightly cued scripts full of the subversive and anarchic, much of it toe-curlingly funny. I’ll wager I wasn’t the only one in the audience who ended up with cramp in their feet following this pulsating hour of machine-gun, staccato dialogue in Parks’ latest Fringe offering, The House.
It’s full on theatre that’s never beige in phrase nor afraid of saying what many people are probably thinking but feel constrained in terms of articulating. Middle-class, white America is littered with couples who mirror the Redmonds (David Calvitto and Pauline Goldsmith), obsessed with possessions, resistant to any form of change, suspicious of anyone not an identikit of themselves.
So when they come to sell the house they’ve nurtured and treasured these past twenty years, they want to make sure it is passed on to the right sort of people. And the Libett’s (the aforementioned Oliver Tilney and Alex Sunderhaus) seem to be just that couple. He’s in finance, she’s an attorney and they don’t believe in mortgages, do believe in families and appear to want to continue the process of nurturing this pile of bricks and mortar in an American suburb that even has a black family living nearby.
Yet, almost as soon as the ink is dry on the contracts things start to unravel. Badly. The prospect of the slightest change post-sale fills the Redmonds with horror and leads to a series of wonderful “foot-in-mouth” moments, cringingly embarrassing silences, tension tighter than wire on the average garden fence and some moments of sublime farce as both teeth and ideals get thoroughly knocked about.
Parks’ strikingly observational script and its uniformly excellent interpretation and delivery by the quartet on stage make this a compellingly realistic piece of theatre. David Calvetto as long-time dentist Martyn Redmond is convincingly pedantic and Pauline Goldsmith as his devoted, long suffering wife managed to be both condescendingly maternal and completely paranoid, sometimes simultaneously. Oliver Tinley’s Fischer Libett was every inch the American banker and Alex Sunderhaus played peace-maker to her husband’s “foot in mouth” approach to conversation with the dexterity of a diplomat.
The descent from amiable discussion of the impending transfer of the property to the farcical, almost slapstick denouement was superbly handled, the play metamorphosing from that driven by its tightly choreographed script into one driven by equally tight physical theatre, as the Redmond’s tidy pride and joy of a living room receives a make over that’s unlikely to feature anytime soon on one of those reality TV programmes.
This is fast-paced, thought provoking comedy, superbly delivered by four actors of the highest calibre. With the set, props and lighting complementing the words and actions and a lighting crew in stitches at the stage antics unfolding before them (and, remember they’ve now seen this show a dozen times) you know you’re watching a winner.
Moving house is a stressful experience, up there with death and divorce. But having watched The House I’m now resolved never to do it again.