I once experienced a physical reaction that felt like my stomach was scraped clean with a spoon. Much later did I admit to myself that what I felt was jealousy. It was such an acute pain that I couldn’t quite belittle it to just jealousy at that point but as the pain faded in time, I admitted defeat. Irish playwright Enda Walsh describes these feelings that we have conveniently given names like jealousy, despair, infatuation, fear in such incredible detail that you have no choice but to feel them with the actors on stage.
The story that he’s written is impeccably structured and immaculately told by sisters Breda, Clara and Ada and visitor Patsy. Breda and Clara (whose facial expressions of a whimpering teenager are absolutely exceptional) reenact one fateful night at the New Electric Ballroom when the music flowed just as generously as their feelings for a certain heartthrob. When their feelings get crushed by his ignorance of their adoration, they replay the tragedy of the night over and over again in garish make-up, poofy skirts and teenage emotions as a cautionary tale for younger sister Clara. As a challenge to the cautionary tale, Patsy, an unassuming local fishmonger tries to infiltrate the tight circle of the sisters, to be noticed, to be welcomed into their homes not just as a necessity but a visitor.
Justin Smith who plays Patsy nearly steals the show with his monologue and an unexpected solo performance, but it is the words of Enda Walsh that upstages any performance because “Staring back behind the blusher and the eye shadow is a girl who’s yet to be kissed. Properly kissed.” And it is that simple kiss that results in this exceptionally told story.
Until 31 March, Griffin Theatre, $15-$30.