Where’s My Money?
Written by: John Patrick Shanley
Directed by: Oliver Mander
Gryphon Theatre, 23rd Mar 2023
Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus
American writer John Patrick Shanley is perhaps best known as a screenwriter, having won an Oscar for Moonstruck, but he is also a prolific, award-winning playwright. This lesser-known work is a cleverly structured witty, bitter, and sometimes brutal exposition of destructive relationships and poor life choices.
It starts with old friends Celeste (Gin Mabey) and Natalie (Stacey O’Brien) meeting in a café where the catty conversation turns much darker than either of them anticipates. Next, we see Natalie with her controlling lawyer husband Henry (Leon Beaton) and learn of her murky past with Tommy (Shay Tanirau) that has come back to haunt her. Henry then goes to see his friend and philandering divorce lawyer Sidney (Martin Hunt), whose toxic masculinity is carried through to a violent confrontation with his territorial wife Marcia (Lisa Aaltonen). There are further connections between these characters, but to say more would spoil the plot.
This ensemble cast is excellent, with each actor thoroughly owning the best and worst of their sometimes-over-the-top characters and the literal and metaphorical ghosts of the lies they tell themselves.
The changes of scene are managed through the installation of a revolve, the first I’ve seen on the Gryphon stage. This works well, although a gap between the set and curtains at one side and a central wall that’s a tad too flimsy to withstand the robust action at the end of the play let down the construction of an imaginative design (Oliver Mander). This staging gives a tight performance space for each pair of actors, but Mander’s direction largely uses it successfully to reflect the claustrophobic nature of their relationships.
Lighting and sound (Jamie Byas and Tim Gruar) work effectively to support the on-stage action. A highlight is the gruesome red glow that drenches Tommy the first time he appears.
Wellington Repertory Theatre’s deft production of an expertly crafted script certainly deserves a bigger audience than it had on its second night and is well worth your money.