The Odd Man Out of David Williamson’s latest play is Ryan (played with great insight by Justin Stewart Cotta), the Asperger’s genius who’s brilliant on physics and cold, hard logic but lacks the emotional intelligence to succeed in his personal relationships.
The play opens with a humorous scene in which he is trying to court his future wife Alice (Lisa Gormley), who is taken aback by his direct, even blunt, approach but succumbs to his insistent attention.
After their marriage and a number of intensely awkward social moments with friends and family, Alice tries to socialise Ryan by introducing him to exercises gleaned from an Asperger’s help manual.
In one very funny but painful scene, Alice controls Ryan’s conversational fugues through agreed hand signals which are designed to steer him away from dangerous territory and help him navigate the interactions with their guests.
As may be expected, the results are hilarious.
The supporting cast of Gael Ballantyne, Rachel Gordon, Matt Minto and Bill Young play the parents and friends of the couple.
I’m always surprised by the clever use the Ensemble makes of its very limited stage, and this play is no exception, with six coloured cubes on stage and a lit wall as a backdrop that suggests the working of a brain on a screen.
Mark Kilmurry strikes the right chord in his direction of this romantic comedy, which is the 20th work of Williamson’s the Ensemble has staged since 1998 in what has been a productive relationship, with some 17 world premieres including this work, and a very satisfying program for north shore residents.
In this work, don’t expect the volley of one-liners Williamson has made his own: this brave and important and powerful work deals with a serious psychological subject which the playwright treats with great humanity and compassion and a gentle sense of humour. (ID)
Until Mar 18, Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli. $43-$71. Tickets & info: www.ensemble.com.au