Director: Matthew Ralli
Presented by: Speckintime
Reviewer: Ciarán Leinster
It’s difficult to get too much comedy from disastrous relationships, but four out of the five one-act plays that make up The Art of Wedlock manage this with ease and brilliance. The final piece, Enemies is an altogether more sombre affair that has undoubted merits, but does not quite fit in with the black comedy-prompted belly-laughs that propelled the rest of this show.
Beginning with Chekhov’s The Proposal, where a proposal is repeatedly ruined by petty bickering, these plays run through different stages of marriage, and each one is superb. The highlight is the Albee-esque The Problem, where Simon Toal brilliantly plays a wealthy boob who bears more than a physical resemblance to Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy. A.R. Gurney’s piece creates such a wonderful, bizarre and hysterical world that will leave any audience in stitches, as he satirises sexual depravity in the upper-middle class with an increasingly absurd storyline.
Dorothy Parker’s Here We Are, in which a newly-wed couple bicker on their honeymoon, is also magnificent, as it soon becomes evident that they’re not ready for the commitment. Diane Jennings and Ciarán McGlynn are superb in their rôles as naive southerners clearly dreading married life more than they can express.
Black comedy is the order of the day, possibly more so in Ferenc Molnar’s A Matter of Husbands in which a wealthy actress convinces a distressed housewife that her husband is not having an affair with her, only for the opposite to be revealed at the end. Deirdre Monaghan plays the rôle of the actress, and also of the Deacon’s wife in the poignant finale, Enemies, in which an older couple realise that they can barely live with or without each other.
The journey taken by the audience here is a powerful one, as one experiences the optimism and fear of the early relationship, the frustration of the middle period, and the anger, but also deep love that can come at the end of marriage. In a small space in which two sides of the theatre are stages, the scenes shift markedly for each play, and the intimate, dark atmosphere creates the feeling of really being inside the relationships depicted.
Photo courtesy of Speckintime. Runs until 22nd February.