Chemistry (The Little Theatre Co) – theatre review

Depression and suicide are hardly topics to make light of. But humour proves to be a powerful weapon in building understanding of the challenges associated with mental health in Chemistry. This is one of a trilogy by American writer Jacob Marx Rice that he dubs his suicide comedies.

It features a pair of bright twenty somethings who meet at a psychiatrist’s office and fall madly in love. Steph, a chronic depressive who now works in a bar, first tried to take her own life at the age of 11. She comes from a family that has faced a number of similar battles over time. Steph’s sister initially attempted to pull down the shutters at age 12, while their mother was 14 when she first tried.

Harvard-educated Jamie is an intense high achiever who loves his government position analysing socio-political data. His workaholic commitment to the job caught up with him and he was diagnosed with unipolar mania, which manifested itself in manic episodes.

Jamie and Steph become inseparable, even though she isn’t convinced that a long-term relationship is in their best interests. But through the good times and the great sex, her feeling of wanting to check out never leaves her. As time goes on the Black Dog looms larger than ever. Chemistry is their story and it’s a rich and engaging one, which moves along at pace.

Initially each tell of their lives and how they came to be where they are today. Their future clearly lies with one another … but their solitary challenges remain.

The performances are spirited. The vivacious and convincing Monique Fisher is a real find. She possesses a joie de vivre that should see her go far in her chosen field. In Thomas Filer, too, there’s plenty to like as he assumes the role of a highly-driven personality with heart.

The minimalist staging centres around a double bed encased in Perspex (the set designer is Juliette Whitney). Directed by Ryan A. Murphy, Chemistry is The Little Theatre Company’s first show. It’s entertaining and appealing throughout. It plays at Alex Theatre in St Kilda until 14 September, 2018.

Those experiencing a personal crisis can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Alex First

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