Saturn Returns, by Noah HaidleWednesday, 10 November, 2010
It’s not every pub theatre that can survive without the pub to which it is attached actually functioning, but the Finborough still goes on, winning awards and gaining audiences with its blend of new writing and old discoveries, and with a musical or two pitched in for good measure.
The current production (playing every night but Sunday and Monday) is American writer Noah Haidle’s Saturn Returns, a play that is predicated on the fact that the planet Saturn orbits the Sun every 30 years. Noah Haidle gives us three views, the same views that a Saturnine onlooker would have through his telescope, of his central character, at ages 88, 58 and 28.
At 88, Gustin Novak (played by Richard Evans) is physically healthy but mentally in despair. He is alone in his falling down house, driven to calling health professionals or blocking toilets to get someone to talk to into his life. The latest of these is Suzanne, a woman who bears a big resemblance to his daughter and his wife, both of whom have pre-deceased him.
It is in fact, these two individuals who have dominated his life, and still threaten with their constant but insubstantial presence.
At 58, Novak (Nicholas Gecks) is being encouraged to go on dates by his daughter, who is at this time about the age his wife would have been when she died in childbirth. Still though, the chains of love linking him to his deceased wife survive.
At 28, Novak (Christopher Harper this time) is a young man in love, his daughter about to be conceived and begin the process that leads to his wife’s death.
This is more though than a play about flashbacks and the present. Noah Haidle allows his characters to mingle, discuss, and give advice, and in the process ask whether, if we could change the past, would we? And by messing around with time, he points to the central concept of the drama, that time, which will not be frozen, managed or controlled, gives us our greatest pleasures and gives life its deepest despair.
This is a tentatively life-affirming drama, one in which the bleaker side of life almost, but not quite wins out. It is lovingly played and has a depth that possibly will only reveal itself after the play has ended, when the audience is back outside on the street once more.
Lisa Caruccio Came plays the three women (healthcare worker, daughter, wife) with some panache, but to single out any one of the four cast for special mention would be invidious.
Cast: Lisa Caruccio Came – Suzanne, Zephyr, Loretta; Richard Evans, Nicholas Gecks, Christopher Harper – Gustin Novak at 88, 58 and 28
Writer – Noah Haidle: Director – Adam Lemson: Sets and costume – Bec Chippendale; Lighting designers – James Smith, Chris Withers; Sound design – Sean Ephgrave; Composer – Richard Bates
reviewed 10 November 2010
(c) Michael Spring, 2010