Perplex is a hugely fun play, and though it has the term ‘absurdism’ attached to it, it doesn’t take itself, or absurdism seriously.
It slides in and out of recognisable scenes, where generally, the expectations of the audience are decimated by some bizarre occurrence or change in perspective. A mother gradually becomes less and less the mother of her child – until she has never met it – throughout the course of a scene; a man in ski costume falls deeply in love with a man in an elk costume, though we aren’t sure whether he loves the man, the elk, or an elky man, and the elky man that seduces him also isn’t interested.
Director Sarah Giles uses Marius von Mayenburg’s wild, exciting script effectively, always keeping the tempo up – though the staging is what you might call ‘usual-fun-meta-theatre’ as opposed to ‘ah-holy-shite-my-brain-has-been-decimated-meta-theatre’. While it’s not ground-breaking, that can be a good thing – in some ways it’s nice to see an absurdist comedy that wants to be fun, and isn’t all about the existential agony.
There are a few monologues that aren’t quite finessed or nuanced enough to keep the audience’s attention, and start to drag, although Tim (Walter, the actors all use their real names) always manages to engage in his longer spiels – partly because he spends a good chunk of the play either completely naked or in an elk costume. Glenn Hazeldine has probably the most ridiculous role though, going from pedantic husband, to whining baby, to Nazi, to ski-gear-wearing-elk-lover, and a whole bunch of other peculiarities; always giving 100%, and never taking himself as seriously as the rest of the cast, who seem slightly tied to their individual personas. Rebecca Massey carries that straighter role effectively though, and it’s a relief to have her there bring down Tim and Andrea (Demetriades) from their bonkers rants.
It’s a play that’s hard to place, or explain, because it thrives on the way each scene morphs into something different and unexpected. It’s successful in this way, the viewer is never sure what’s happening, but is always entertained. It’s what I would call a great Friday-night play – nothing too existentially troubling, but a good deal of fun and a whole heap of meta.
Perplex is on at Sydney Theatre Company until May 3.