Reviewed by Regina Su
The New Theatre’s latest production, The Ritz, is a fabulously camp comedy, showing in association with the Sydney Mardi Gras. The Ritz, is a classic farce of miscommunication and slapstick. We watch Gaetano Proclo (Les Amussen), on the run from a ‘hit’ placed on him by his in-laws. He unwittingly seeks refuge in a steamy Manhattan bathhouse, thus chaos ensues. Terrence McNally’s play seems to have remained unchanged since its first production in the 1970s, reflecting its context and celebrating the ‘gay revolution’, where hedonism and freedom are championed.
The Ritz, is fast-paced frivolity. Everything about the play is loud; the colours, the characters, the cast. And what an excellent performance from the cast it was. Sporting their best downtown New Yorker accents, each actor flamboyantly portrays comedic characters; the sauna’s resident queen, the wannabe Hollywood star, the buff detective, the Italian mobster, and many more. What’s more, the actors gave these stereotypical caricatures an endearing warmth and heart. Chris, (played by Samuel Christopher,) grounded the play with serious undertones by confronting the prejudices and struggles that many people in the gay community face. He illuminated these with poignant and touching moments, in amongst the helter skelter chaos of the Ritz bathhouse.
While the play seemed a little dated and contextually specific at times, the entertainment value of the production, coupled with political undertones, made it relevant to a contemporary audience. Put simply, this play is a fiesta celebrating the Sydney Mardi Gras. The ensemble was professional and tight, especially considering many of the roles were dialogue heavy and physically demanding. The second half of the show seemed to present complication after complication, and I wondered how it would all resolve itself. The cast performed with such enthusiasm and energy; they kept a full house laughing and engaged to the very end scene, with wild goose chases and misunderstandings.
I congratulate the stage manager, and all those involved in set production and lighting. The set was really impressive, with passageways and levels. It was multipurpose and helped the audience to imagine all the rooms of the hotel; from the lobby, to ‘The Pit’ stage, to the ins and outs of individual rooms. The Ritz is playing at the New Theatre until 5th March, and is a light-hearted celebration of the Mardi Gras spirit.
Photos by Bob Seary