Directed by Chris Tan
Produced by Kristin Burns
presented by Artiszen and Guerrilla Monkey
Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
Inviting Caroline begins with the ending (and ends with a new beginning, but we'll get on to that later). Lights come up on a scene of chaos: three couples clinched together in furious rather than amorous embraces. Blonde Hilary and brunette Caroline are locked in a battle of good and evil, best friends Chris and Sebastian are trying to kill each other, and protagonist Scott is wrestling Fiona, a ginger ninja with a black belt in karate. The action freezes and Scott addresses the audience in the first of his many amusing asides: “In retrospect,” he ponders, as a grimacing Fiona clings to his back, “inviting Caroline was probably a bad idea.”
Why inviting Caroline was such a bad idea is explored in the next hour of the play, as we back-track over the two weeks leading up to the party and meet the series of misfits and miscreants who will be invited. Ben Van Lier delights as philosophical Scott who has planned his party with all the military precision that a twenty year old student can muster. Van Lier infuses Scott with a sense of creative Kiwi everyman (think Dave Dobbyn, Peter Bland, Tim Shadbolt et al) and is utterly credible in the role of a well-intentioned, slightly bumbling young intellectual.
Scott has the motley crew of friends typically acquired at university. Fiona (played by the compelling Amelia Reynolds) is fierce but loving, and has the dubious ‘super-power' of being able to get people to forget she exists. Chris (Junior Misimoa) is a bogan so dumb he makes Bret Michaels look like Stephen Hawking. Hillary (Lisa Sorensen) is apple-pie laced with arsenic; Sebastian (played convincingly by Ben Legg) is an insufferable dotcom geek…
And then there's Caroline (Kat Glass), the magnetic black-haired minx who inspires hilarious thunder-and-lightning special effects.
The six friends are not particularly well-suited to each other, and to make matters worse they are all partial to a tipple and simmering with intense sexual frustration. The party is a powder keg, and Caroline is the spark that makes it explode. From the ashes, new futures arise for each of the characters.
Everything about this play is very good. The acting is engaging, the writing deft, and the direction (Chris Tan) smart. Actor Ben Van Lier and writer Ross MacLeod emerge as people to watch in the theatre scene.
Inviting Caroline might not stay with you for days afterwards, but at just $15 a ticket (make sure you bring another $7.50 for a glass of the Basement Theatre's mulled wine) it is the perfect way to kick-start a fun night out. I just hope yours ends less chaotically than Scott's did.
Published on Theatreview