Mixed Salad Productions. Star Theatre Two, 21 Oct to 5 Nov
Relationships are complicated, people are multi-layered and they rarely say what they are actually thinking. This is Terrace McNally’s Lips Together Teeth Apart in a nutshell, though this comedic show offers its audience much more than such simple conclusions.
With this production, Mixed Salad brings another of the favoured playwrite’s works to the stage with wonderful success, having previously tackled Love! Valour! Compassion! and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune to great acclaim.
In this SA premiere, the cast of Nicole Rutty (Chloe), Peter Davies (John), Tracey Walker (Sally) and Steve Parker (Sam) are a wonderfully tight and well-rehearsed quartet. Each presents the personal struggles of their character with natural ease.
Sally and Sam are staying in the beach house inherited by Sally after the death of her brother, a homosexual who sadly passed away after a battle with AIDS. In what later seems an interesting choice of company, Sam invites his sister, Chloe and her husband John to join them.
Immediately we are struck by their contrasting personalities: Chloe is needy and extroverted, John is rude and arrogant, Sam is practical and straight speaking, while Sally is philosophical and troubled. The well-crafted interactions between them are telling, hinting at betrayals, burdens, sickness and sadness.
These unspoken plot lines are accentuated by monologues in which the characters inner thoughts and feelings regarding themselves and each other are unveiled. Through these moments, conflicts and affections are teased out to reveal the webs that bind them.
This show is heavy with symbolism and analogies; references to offstage concepts such as the house pool and a drowned swimmer, who fixates Sally, reappear throughout and represent each character’s emotional distance, regret, and fear of loss and death.
The play is also full of catharsis. The beach house forces them together in more than just a physical sense. Surrounded by a gay-friendly neighbourhood, they are isolated both by their own prejudices and by a location free of the distractions we all use to avoid dealing with our demons. They have little else to do but contemplate and communicate, and gradually both demons and angels emerge.
Lips Together Teeth Apart is a lot of fun and you quickly relate to the characters and their idiosyncrasies. You’ll love them, hate them, laugh with and laugh at them, and you’ll leave wishing all the best for them. This is a great show and highly recommended viewing.