Altar Ego

Unseen Theatre Company in association with Crass Clown Productions. The Bakehouse Theatre. 23 Feb 2013

Creationists say that proof of God is the perfection of His plan.  Some plan.  The best procreation strategy for men is to get their seed into as many women as possible.  The strategy for women is to find a partner to give protection and sustenance for the duration of raising a family (The Moral Animal, Robert Wright, Vintage Books, 1994).  What chaos has this plan caused?  While both strategies may have been satisfied by communal living in ancient societies and in those more recently destroyed by the white European diaspora since Columbus sailed the ocean blue, the Judeo-Christian ethos has favoured the female strategy.  So feminism is really a response to men’s repression of women in reprisal for having won this little war long ago.

Wow!  Where is that little burst of pseudo-scientific pop philosophy come from?  I went to see this Fringe show, the Australian premiere of American James Lyons’ Altar Ego, and well, it got me thinking.  Lyons takes the lid off every dirty subverted sexual fantasy of the suburban married man. 
And yes, even while I was laughing at his insights into this perpetual human drama, I was also faintly fearful and embarrassed when he metaphorically challenges, “C’mon, you don’t think of this stuff too?  BS!”

James performed this little beauty with another, his rather recently acquired wife, Melanie (nee Munt) of Adelaide.  What do they think about this stuff?  I wish my wife had been able to see this play with me.  Or maybe not, maybe better she was in Melbourne.  Why don’t I go to Sydney myself and… stop that!

All monologue and part stand-up, Jimmy (apparently he’s James when he’s a writer but Jimmy when he’s an actor) and Melanie open with your wedding waltz complete with relaxation visuals.  Yes, I walked on water, too, on that day.  But James is really concerned about what happens later, when the desire isn’t so ardent.  We hear it from both sides - husband and wife – and I love the way James employs shelving to tie some of the narratives of the eight characters together.  We also get the marketing story on marriage and a nasty vignette of self-loathing.

The Lyons of Los Angeles work beautifully together and have equally excellent skills in naturalism.  They talk to you like your best friend bearing their soul over a soy decaf at the local al fresco.  Melanie sparkles – even her eyes sparkle – conveying mischievous charm or resigned entrapment in the game of love.  Jimmy plays the guy who could lead you badly astray, to the confused, with the same high quality watchability. 

Altar Ego had its world premiere at the Beverly Hills Playhouse only in 2010, but I have no doubt it will be hugely popular around the world for decades to come after contemporary American references are expunged to ensure its longevity.

Not to be missed.  Bravo!

David Grybowski

When: 23 Feb to 2 Mar
Where: The Bakehouse Theatre