Comedy, melodrama and hijinks abound in the Australian premiere of A Very Modern Marriage, a play previously only performed at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival.
There are frenzied and vitriolic arguments aplenty when a gay friend, Chris (Jayden Popik), moves in with a married couple – whose relationship is already on shaky ground – as they are marking their fourth wedding anniversary. Chris’ reason for doing so may not be quite as pure as he first makes out. Initially, it takes all the will that husband Matt (Tom Carty) can muster just to tolerate Chris’ presence. Wife Tina (Ali Viterbi) accuses her hubby of not supporting her work – she runs a small gallery/shop that is losing money. All that changes though when Chris takes up residence in their home and is able to turn around the business’ fortunes. What starts out as a few nights on the couch quickly becomes a couple of months. Trust is tested time and again. The inter-relationships between the trio shift back and forth.
All the action is played out in the place the three share in various combinations. A sofa, colourful circular rug, a fridge, basin, small oval mirror, cupboard and pendant lighting is all that is needed to create the impression that we – the audience – are flies on the wall to events as they unfold.
British-born US playwright Arthur M. Jolly was inspired to create A Very Modern Marriage by a relationship he had with a close male friend and his then girlfriend. After a slow start, this semi-autobiographical work, directed by Gabrielle Savrone, picks up momentum and really starts to sizzle. It becomes a delicious, highly appealing combination of shocks and surprises and pithy dialogue, as all give as good as they get.
Undoubtedly the best and most acerbic lines are Chris’ domain. It is a role that Popik makes his own. Chris all but wears his sexuality as a badge of honour, having clearly been targeted in the past. He has no time for people who are uncomfortable with him.
The humour is both verbal and physical. The final punch line is a beauty, but is overplayed with excessive dialogue an unnecessary burden. Still there is much to enjoy in the inherently clever, at times sage, reflections on the joys and perils (primarily the latter) of contemporary relationships. Ninety minutes without interval, A Very Modern Marriage is on at The Owl and Cat Theatre until 29th July.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television