It is 1991 and materialism lives. There’s tension in the house when four people spend time together in a chalet on Mount Buller, which the wealthy and bombastic owner – a psychologist and author – has just won as part of a bitter divorce settlement.
He has had a Jacuzzi newly installed smack bang in the middle of his holiday digs, as has been his want for years. The two people he has employed to tend to his lodgings seem like hard workers, acceding to his every whim, including packing up his ex-wife’s belongings, but then they might not be quite who they appear to be. Into this environment enters a 26-year-old, one of the owner’s sons, who has a massive chip on his shoulders. Clearly troubled, he has nothing but disdain for his dad, who has literally paid to have him show up and enter a father-son fun and wacky dress-up ski race with him.
The first two in the hot tub are the workers (a couple), who believe they have the place to themselves for the first night, but then the owner’s son turns up a day earlier than planned. When they encourage him to stay, he does so, consuming copious quantities of alcohol, loosening his lips to reveal some of his problems/issues, including an ugly episode in Europe involving a failed relationship. The next day, when his dad choppers in, it is all his son can do just to be in the same room as his father, let alone offer him a civil word. But something much more sinister is afoot that will be played out in the second act.
There are hints and inference throughout, but little is spelt out, leaving the audience guessing. And that I see as problem number one with Jacuzzi. While sometimes less is more, and that is often the case until what may be termed the big reveal or surprise, in this case too much remains unsaid. Who are these employees and what is their real story? Exactly what did the son do in Europe? Is it what we suspect?
The play was written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and premiered in New York about a year ago, when the slopes of Colorado were the scene for the action. Much of what takes place in Jacuzzi is small talk, which I quickly tired of. Quite frankly, I didn’t find any of it all that interesting or compelling. I would call it trite and verbose. It tended to drag and yet I certainly entered wanting to like it.
Very little of the acting appeared natural. Rather, by and large, I thought it was forced or affected. Perhaps the exception was Emma Jo McKay as one of the workers. I thought her co-conspirator Wesley Forke was all but nondescript or colourless, Darren Fort, the father, over-effusive and over ebullient and Doug Lyons, the son, simply too predictable.
In short, any sense of subtlety was missing from the characterisations. I had the odd chuckle or two, but what I got was less than what I expected, both from a comedic and a dramatic perspective. That having been said, I thought the set design, complete with working Jacuzzi, was very well executed and created the right atmosphere inside the Alex Theatre to transport us – the audience – to the mountain..
Directed by Jean Russell, Jacuzzi, which runs for two hours including interval, is on until 24th October.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television