Annie Baker’s plays are long – very long – and they often have an indiscernible plot arc, banal dialogue, and inexplicable pauses in conversations. It’s her style and you either love it or hate it. You’ll want to decide that before you commit to the three and a half hours of John, now playing at the Seymour Centre.
Set in a quaint, slightly out of the way BnB in the historic tourist town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Mertis (Belinda Giblin), is the elderly owner who seemingly runs the place on her own, although she says she has a sick, bed-ridden husband whom we never actually see. A young couple arrives at the hotel having booked online. Elias (James Bell) is tall, long-haired, bespectacled, Jewish and, as we discover, reactive and over-sensitive. His girlfriend, Jenny (Shuang Hu) is petite, awkward, Asian and, as we discover, unfiltered and indiscreet. Both are youthfully intense and given to melodrama. The fourth on-stage character is Genevieve (Maggie Blinco), Metis’ best friend, an old, blind, cantankerous woman, perhaps several paces to the side of sane. She contributes to much of the comedy.
Elias and Jenny are clearly having relationship issues. This is predominantly attributed to Jenny’s infidelity some months prior, however, the acrimony these two show towards each other is never balanced by any affection that might convince you they should even be together. Given that much of the tension revolves around their relationship, it is a considerable weak point in the drama.
Giblin is utterly engaging and busting at the seams of her sadly underwritten character.
The set is the most impressive thing about this production. It comprises a small dining area, sitting room, hallway and part of a staircase. The furniture is old world and garish ornaments, souvenirs, and porcelain dolls clutter every inch of display space. “Tchotchkes” also pepper the plot: tidbits of information and activity that seemingly have no purpose. Perhaps, just like the room full of curiosities, if you look hard enough at the plot you’ll find something interesting.
Until Oct 12. Seymour Centre, Cnr Cleveland St & City Rd, Chippendale. $38-$47+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich