Rivka Hartman’s play Let’s Talk About You…a theatre review by Deb Meyer

November 21, 2016 by Deb Meyer
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Let’s Talk About You is the newest offering by playwright Rivka Hartman (My Mother & Other Catastrophes) – a Melbourne born, Yiddish speaking thespian who’s Jewish identity informs much of her writing.

Her voice is front and centre in this personal play – a black comedy about a lesbian love triangle, at the Depot Theatre in Marrickville.

Elaine Hudson, Anne Tenney & Taylor Owynns in Let’s Talk About You Photo by Vicki Skarratt:

Elaine Hudson, Anne Tenney & Taylor Owynns in Let’s Talk About You
Photo by Vicki Skarratt:

At the play’s core lies the deconstruction of the neurotic and highly strung cosmetic surgeon and wife, Dr Ernestine Brilliant (Elaine Hudson), whose alter ego (Anne Tenney) allows the audience into her more truthful, internal self, free of expectation or inhibition. Think Freudian Id personified. Hartman cleverly uses this dramatic device for comedic effect, highlighting the internal dialectic within the emotionally stunted protagonist, providing some very amusing tension, with which many of us can identity.

Ernestine’s alter ego successfully draws her into a love affair with an old school friend, Hope (Taylor Owynns) – a Jewish, lesbian, artist from Newtown. Hope is the complete opposite of Ernestine. She’s a kind, spiritual and creative soul, who attends synagogue on Friday nights. As the shofar blows in the background, signifying the Jewish new year, Hope tells Ernestine ‘it’s time to shake out of our unthinking patterns ….and reconnect to our source’. And so begins the unravelling of Ernestine.

As the conservative, self-absorbed surgeon, Elaine Hudson inhabits the role to the extreme. As her character softens, this provides a welcome relief and Hudson’s performance becomes more nuanced. Anne Tenney brings a wonderful playfulness to Ernestine’s alter ego, in both reprimanding her other half and emancipating her emotionally and sexually. Taylor Owynns plays the Jewish Hope with authenticity and sensitivity. The intense relationship that blossoms between the two (or three?) and inevitable tension, is a delight to watch.

The charm of the Depot Theatre is in it’s community spirit, simplicity and pared back facade. So too in this production, Hartman has assembled her own community of sorts. The set, props and costuming, by Erica Pols, is kept minimal and effective. Composer and guitarist Martyn Wilson delivers engaging acoustic sounds during scene changes and performs live during one of the more physically demanding, choreographed scenes. Sound and lighting design by Georgia Styles and Mehran Mortezaei complement this delightful and darkly comic production.

Rivka Hartman, an experienced and awarded playwright and director for over 25 years, has placed centre stage a trio of accomplished actresses, for whom roles are not always forthcoming in this youth obsessed industry. To our benefit, Hartman gives the 60+ year old female a voice – not one but two, and brings a refreshing and vibrant addition to the Sydney stage.

Let’s Talk About You by Rivka Hartman

Until November 26

The Depot Theatre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville

Producer: Rivka Hartman

Director: Christine Mearing & Rivka Hartman

Composer: Martin Wilson

Choreographer: Christine Mearing

Designer: Joe Montano

Cast: Elaine Hudson, Taylor Owynns and Anne Tenney

Tickets from $22 – $32, Wed-Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

info@thedepottheatre.com or 0477 252 515

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