‘ATLANTIS’ BY LALLY KATZ @ NEW THEATRE NEWTOWN

Above: Luke Visentin and Georgia Britt in an early scene from the play. Featured image: Georgia Britt, in the role of Lally on pilgrimmage to the Miami of her youth-and Atlantis, puts in a powerhouse performance. Photo credit: Chris Lundie.

Lally Katz has created a huge piece of modern mythology in Atlantis. A sprawling, titan, bittersweet, autobiographical chunk of humanity is laid before us in this play. A demanding quest for any cast and creative team, it demands a large mosaic of characters to intersect on stage in this theatrical memoir.

When New-Australian Lally suffers a broken relationship, an ovarian cyst and a possible lonely, childless future, she returns home to Miami to recapture the security and happiness of her childhood. She also searches for a degree of hope, fun and the wisdom of her grandparents and friends she visits in a nursing home.

Within this play’s urgent journey the resulting momentum sees Lally surrounded by a coterie of colourful characters she survives exposure to. The hectic result is a networked tragi-comic tranche-de-vie that bursts forth from the playwright’s beautifully candid oversharing mind.

This production by New Theatre does well to keep up with the constant twists and turns of Lally’s storytelling. At its centre is the endearing energy of  Georgia Britt, who brings Lally’s journey joyously to life. Britt does this with stamina, sensitivity, satire and an effervescent approach to recreating scenes from modern life’s peopled, problematic shopping mall. Her powerhouse performance creates an instant and enduring rapport with the audience.

Above: Lally tries nightclubbing. Photo credit: Chris Lundie.

Lally Katz shares a pre-U.S journey dream with the audience and with her disinterested boyfriend (played with supreme nonchalance by Luke Visentin) In the dream she avoids peril by befriending a panther rather than being devoured by it deep within her childhood home. She also is scarred by a bad reading from a psychic who predicted doom in romantic relationships. During the play her trip is a hunt to avoid loneliness, find friendship, fearlessness and secure a soulmate. Britt’s onstage portrayal of Lally and her interaction with the New World always see her aiming to be complete and safe in the same way that her in-dream deal with the panther once brought her closenes and comfort.

The challenging job of any ensemble and production creatives is to deliver in Atlantis a show with multiple shifts of scene, a huge number of characters and quick change scenes as Lally attempts to rediscover the simple successes and joys of youth, lost now as if it were an Atlantis. This play is busy, needs instantly identifiable modern dangers to be depicted clearly and quickly as people and scenes are successively presented with smooth segues into each perilous return-to-the-USA event.

New Theatre’s production team have put in an admirable effort for scenes and characters in New York, Miami, Dallas and eventually Las Vegas to be so vividly represented. Dialect coach Benjamin Purser is to be commended for the swoop of American accents speaking English and Spanish to be achieved so smoothly, and with comic effect here. The assorted twangs across locales various are also supported by effective use of lighting plus precise sound elements and effects reinforcing the believable atmospheres and destinations created.

Director Tiffany Wong and Assistant Directors Josephine Lee, Dominique Purdue and Bella Wellstead have done well to tame the wild animal contained in the sprawling autobiographical pastiche. This play’s demands on theatrical energy and contrast are sizeable. Multiple roles are to be presented by each actor, whether for fleeting or prolonged threads throughout the vignettes. The expert use in this version of comic timing, non-verbal visual comedy and accurate representation of stereotypical characters from assorted backgrounds and ages get audiences nodding and laughing in recognition.

Above: Renae Valastro (as Electra’s dog), Georgia Britt (as Lallu) and Tamara Foglia Castaneda (as Electra) find companionship in Electra’s illegal short-term rental apartment. Photo credit: Chris Lundie.

The use of two flats with framed blackboard windows in Amelia Lane’s set design is a winner here. Enabling signposting for Lally’s travels and behind-set action to appear through the different portals, it allows the action to enter, comment and expand on extra levels to a variety of degrees and durations. The shape of these flats morph gently, effectively and practically depending on the scene. Some slick stage management from Atlas Andrews and cast also works well around and behind this set.

Newcomer to New Theatre is NIDA-trained costume designer Sam Hernandez. Nailing the challenging job of ensuring the caricatures of people Lally discovers are instantly recognisable, his work ensured the stage vistas always popped with contrasting colour, shape and textural palettes. Outfits for Lally’s club night, the nursing home visiting room and the final Caesar Palace performance benefitted from his eye for the appropriate  as well as a deft manipulation of colour and style.

Some stellar characterisations emerged from the hard-working cast in this show. Notable were an Atlantis-searching doomsdayer NY taxi driver (Renae Valastro), a Mexican-American ritalin-taking dude from Texas who is sold on pyramid schemes (Dallas Reedman) and Electra the Puerto-Rican Air B n B host, also unlucky in love (Tamara Foglia Castaneda). Luke Visentin excels as both Dave the selfish boyfriend who catapulted Lally back home from Australia and even more so as Pop-Op, her grandfather who helps Lally pick up the pieces. Lisa Kelly as the fortune teller Bella is a consummate comedic gem in this play. James Lau’s work as an Uber driver taking Lally towards the fantastical conclusion is very watchable.

This New Theatre version takes one big wildcat swipe at the pantomime-with-a-punch elements of Katz’s lively narrative. This successful tone given by the New Theatre team breathes a freshness into Lally Katz’ deeply personal and imaginagitve romp of a play. The team also ensures a vibrant depiction of predicaments Lally endures. Out of the riotous pantomime more serious, profound observations on life and courage from loss can ring out with resounding truth.

If an Atlantis were to rise post super-storm through a flooded floor of this inner west theatre, our entertainment future would be safe in the hands of this team of creatives and players.

See this play!  Whether you think you have already found your Atlantis or are searching for it in vain, you will joyously drown in this production’s delicious entertainment value and vivid humanity.

Atlantis  plays at the New Theatre until April 13.

One comment

  1. This beautifully written review shows a deep understanding of Lally’s play Atlantis. We’re really looking forward to seeing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.