If you haven’t yet caught Tom Murphy’s The Gigli Concert now on at the Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst you definitely should before the season ends on May 4.
One could be tempted to describe as intense this satirical play about a quack psychiatrist with a taste for vodka and a recurring daily question and a mysterious Irishman who walks into his office wanting to sing like the great Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli.
Except that it isn’t. Despite its esoteric psychological and philosophical subject matter this play is funny and engaging due mostly to delicately balanced direction and outstanding performances from all three cast members.
The audience soon discovers that both men are coincidentally 52, and both ask themselves the same question every morning: “how do I get through today?” Their approach appears at first to be different but turns out not to be so: both turn to drink and both cling to a fantasy to keep them going.
This excellent Irish play, presented by the Darlinghurst Theatre Company and O’Punsky’s Theatre, toys with the audience as it addresses one of the most fundamental questions about human existence: how do we endure and how do we cling to hope and optimism?
Or as pedagogically and entertainingly set out by JPW King (Patrick Dickson), how do we deal with despair and existence without landing in “banana land”?
Ultimately, one answer is provided by King’s love interest Mona (Kim Lewis) who rises above the pain, longing and existential challenges she faces by savouring every moment and allowing herself to love.
But this is just one of the lessons that both men finally grasp.
Maeliosa Stafford is riveting as the disturbed Irishman who has everything, and nothing, but who finally grasps what matters to him and why he should welcome each day. His performance is very nuanced as he flicks seamlessly between his own character and that of the opera singer Beniamino Gigli.
However this is a complex relationship and Dickson’s King requires, and receives, an equally finely nuanced performance to create what is in many ways essentially a mirror image despite the cultural and class differences that divide the two men.
This all sounds intellectually and psychologically challenging, and it is. But John O’Hare’s exquisitely subtle direction, Tom Murphy’s excellent script and the cast’s memorable performances make this also a very entertaining and thought-provoking play.
As we left my colleague said it was a play she would happily see again: I was certainly happy to have caught this “fiercely satirical and beautifully crafted play about the endurance of the human spirit” at least once.
The Gigli Concert is at the Eternity Playhouse, 39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst until May 4. Book on www.darlinghursttheatre.com or 02 8356 9987 (9.30am-5.30pm weekdays).