Two one-act plays: one two stars, the other four. Hence the rating. Both are from the pen of Woody Allen and as one would expect the writing is witty, silly and ever so mind-bending. The themes are also familiar: the problems of infidelity and the problems of writing (usually about infidelity and the problems thereof). They follow the ‘dumb people in smart plays’ formula and are for that reason less profound and moving than the best of Allen’s work, but entertaining nevertheless. It is safe to say that this will appeal to any Allen stalwarts out there.
Old Saybrook is wonderful. It is the better written of the two and all the actors are more than a match for the challenge.
The production, put on by Edinburgh Theatre Arts, is a commendable though uneven affair. Firstly the accents are all over the place, employing a previously undiscovered combination of Scots and New Yoik Yiddish. Characters plan “moyuidur” and “eedoiltray” whilst dealing with “yixistanshal” angst. This in itself is quite amusing and not terribly distracting.
Despite Stuart Mitchell’s charming and witty delivery, Riverside Drive (the first play) often feels like a car crash where the cars also happen to be drowning. Eliane Ferrier does little with an admittedly little role. David McCallum however is the problem. He plays Jim, the obvious Woody Allen cipher, waiting for his mistress. Unfortunately his manner is monotonously overdone, he wears an insoluble grimace and seems serially incapable of playing more than one emotion. He does redeem himself in the next show but before getting there is a tad gruelling.
However, it is worth it. Old Saybrook is wonderful. It is the better written of the two and all the actors are more than a match for the challenge. Of particular note are Derek Marshall and Mags McPherson who pack in the laughs with admirable efficiency and humour. They play Hal and Sandy whose romance and sex lives (the same thing, or are they?) are in the doldrums. They even inject an unexpected degree of tenderness into their roles which gracefully caps off the show.
This is a slow burner, but it’s worth it as gradually Woody Allen’s Writer’s Block is lifted.