Have you ever sat in a cafe sipping a latte gazing across the room at all the other customers wondering who they are, where they’ve come from and what the future might hold? Perhaps you’ve witnessed a demonstrative couple and speculated what the cause of their angst might be; maybe a loving couple sponsors romantic thoughts... or morose ones depending on your mood; and then there’s the body language of a silent pairing that may speak volumes. We imprint our own experiences and desires on anonymous strangers who simply happen to be in the vicinity. If you’re a writer it’s pretty much an occupational hazard.
But what if the targets of your musings knew of the imaginary narrative you were building for them? What if they started to play along, to actually become the alternative versions you conjured? How do you react if your fictional hold becomes so great they come to believe they are the characters in the drama fabricated in your mind? This is the premise for Boise, Idaho, a snappily written 30 minute play produced by Murdoch University’s Black Martini Theatre and directed by first-timer Luke Gratton.
In a cafe that may be in Paris but certainly isn’t in Idaho a man (Hock Edwards) narrates a tale of love, infidelity, and dead rodents using a couple at a nearby table (Launcelot Ronzan and Tijana Simich) as his inspiration. The couple become aware of his verbal ‘big print’ and soon begin to play along until things get out of hand as the salad flies and the dry cleaning bill mounts. Even the waiter (Tay Broadley) is sucked into this surreal mix of reality and fantasy like the Millennium Falcon caught in a tractor beam. It is clever, funny, and well written as a series of distinct sequences unfold.
Edwards is very good as the Narrator. He dominates the early proceedings delighting in the purple prose used to create a fully realised fantasy world that is exaggerated and absurd. He exhibits good comic timing and underplays the funnier lines to great effect... for no apparent reason.
The inevitable change of gears comes mainly through Simich whose character twigs to the conceit and then is the first to embrace it. She plays well off Ronzan as they work through the initial confusion of their new personas to displaying real emotions of hurt and betrayal as the lines become blurred between fantasy and reality.
Ronzan is largely the straight man here until inhabiting his new identity with quite some exuberance leading to a dark climax that is sensibly undercut with a lighter denouement. Along the way there are some surprising moments that give Broadley’s waiter a genuine reason for cleaning up during final bows.
Simply staged and briskly directed to suit the punchy writing this was the equivalent of having a nicely made coffee with a good muffin or piece of cake at your favourite cafe while daydreaming about that intriguing couple in the corner booth. Just, whatever you do, don’t order the soup and salad. Seriously, trust me on this!