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Four can play at this crazy thing called love

Roshan Sewpersad

Written and directed by Stephen Simm
Starring André Odendaal, Diaan Lawrenson, Craig Jackson and Owen Swanson
Baxter Theatre Centre
Until 18 September 2004.

In a world that commodifies authentic experiences and labels them decadent or worthy of crass exploitation it is hard to tell what's authentic and what is not; what's authentically "gay" or "straight" despite heterosexual love having a few thousand years of hegemony in our recorded testaments of love.

In a world of designer darkrooms and designer couples who vie for the limelight, Fourplay bravely tackles the subject of love.

Adam (Craig Jackson) and Sara (Diaan Lawrenson) are married sweethearts living a charmed life. Sara is on the way to the top of her profession, while Adam, a busy architect, is building their dream house. Sara befriends Luke (André Odendaal), a work colleague who happens to be gay and involved in a dwindling "open" relationship with younger Tom (Owen Swanson). While both couples' worlds are comfortable there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in their sex lives, depicted effectively on stage.

After an ambiguous encounter at a urinal, Adam responds to a gay "Personal" ad out of curiosity and begins a series of anonymous telephone conversations with Tom, who had placed the ad to bring some diversion to his boring days. It turns out to be a significant relationship for the two, with Tom determined to meet face to face, but Adam more reticent.

And then their meeting happens, quite coincidentally, at a dinner for four organised by Sara and Luke. And so begins a love affair - a love quadrant - that ends in the destruction of two other loves and, eventually, itself.

Fourplay is an intelligent, mature work that functions well as a theatre text. The story is engaging and well acted, and although too long by about 15 minutes, its construction is meaty and wholesome. It examines the evolution of the relationships from all the important angles and while never saying so explicitly, it's underpinned by an examination of identity.

The play blurs the distinction between gay and straight. After all, love is love. Comparing the lives of the three couples by having all scenarios played on stage simultaneously focuses attention on the universals of love and of sexual politics. After all the Valentine's cards and soap operas, our fundamental needs and desires function at the level of the individual. Love and relationships build character; it is not about inevitable, melodramatic endings.

Fourplay is well-scripted with some fast-paced witty exchanges, and dialogue that never left one cringing, even in the melodramatic moments. It is well observed and has touches of both visual and verbal poetry.

Not knowing what to expect after seeing the poster - if a poster is any indication of the level of creativity involved in the production - I was pleased to have witnessed good theatre on a Wednesday night.

LitNet: 14 September 2004

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