Last night I was invited by writer Sam Brooks to the opening night of his new self directed work, And I Was like. On at the Basement Theatre until the 16th of March And I Was Like is the story of Phillip (Taofia Pelesasa) falling hopelessly, desperately, moronically in love with Trace (Eli Matthewson). A guy who doesn’t talk.
Going in I didn’t really know what to expect. Okay, so the guy doesn’t talk – but why? Is he shy? A mute? or just a dork? It seems that the latter was the case. It’s a relationship that just shouldn’t happen, a fact trumpeted by Trace’s sister Anna (Elyse Brock) yet it does. Despite Anna’s warnings that Phillip should just run away and Phillip’s best friend, Christine’s (Kate Castle) awkwardly hitting yet totally basic questions, ‘Does he tell you that he loves you back?’ Phillip can’t pull off. He’s in love, he’s young, he’s gay and the smallest offer from Trace sends his heart into a frenzy.
As a new play from a young writer And I Was Like does have it’s teething issues. Having a character who consistently does not say a word for the entire duration of the show is hard work. And while the frenetic, throwaway dialogue typical of Generation Y can be hilarious at times, it can also float around in circles. Personally, I’m a huge fan of making words matter on stage – if you don’t need to talk then don’t. But because Trace doesn’t talk, the rest of the characters are compelled to make up for it, which at times felt a bit like it was going around in circles. It’s a tough call because in real life situations conversation does get cyclical and throwaway but what happens in reality doesn’t necessarily always translate well on stage.
Despite that, the actors did a fantastic job. After seeing the Factory on Sunday evening (I promise I’ll write about that soon!) seeing Taofia as a bit of a sappy gay man was a huge change. Meanwhile Kate Castle, Elyse Brock and Steven Chudley (playing Mark, Jono and the waiter) provided well needed and thoroughly enjoyable support. Kate opening the show talking with her mouth full? A+ bemusement from me. As for Eli, well Trace was a creep and by the end he had me feeling seriously uncomfortable which I think is probably a good thing.
I feel like I should extrapolate on this creepiness that I’ve mentioned regarding Trace. Trace himself is pretty non threatening. A skinny, almost weedy white guy. He sort of reminds me of someone I know who I swear always looks like he’s been on the green. But it’s the subtle shifts of the face, the sly acknowledgement that yes, he is totally aware of what is going on but doesn’t deem it worth recognising. This is compounded by the set, simple – just a table and chairs but for a collage of photos of Trace on the wall. They’re out of focus, messy, creepy. There’s a doorway between them that never gets explained?!! and then there’s the sex scenes. Sex scenes which seem to be all about Trace’s control as opposed to Phillip and Trace’s relationship.
And I Was Like is odd. The more I think about it, the more I get flashes of Hard Candy. But it’s an interesting subject and the cast was wonderful. And Sam’s personal touch with the tickets (Hand written on a note from Sam!) totally won me over.
Go check it out for yourself at the Basement! Tickets and more info here.