Lone Star … by James McLure
Directed by Peter Sardi
The Melbourne Age Theatre 7 MAY 1997
Reviews by Fiona Scott-Norman
Directed by Peter Sardi, this is a lovely, darkly comic piece of theatre about men, ambitions and small town expectations. One of the biggest misconceptions about fringe theatre is that it is necessarily unprofessional, but although some small companies are disorganised and run on the smell of an oily rag, others are so crisp, smooth and slick they put funded companies to shame. One such fringe group is the Melbourne Arts Ensemble, a company so professional and adept that every aspect of its production and promotion is taken care of with style and precision. The ensemble’s latest production is two short plays about Texas by American writer James McLure, and not only has it negotiated the use of the smart venue Chapel Off Chapel and put on an aesthetically flawless production. Regardless of the quality of the show, the ensemble’s presentation is a pleasure to experience. Lone Star, revolves around Elizabeth’s husband Roy, the wildest, sexiest guy in Maynard, who loves his 1959 pink Thunderbird convertible and regularly drinks his body weight in the title beer. Roy (Rohan Jones) returned from Vietnam a couple of years earlier and is trapped in the past, unable to move on from reminiscing about his glory days as a young stud. He spins yarns to his brother Ray (Simon King), and persecutes the hapless Cletis (Steven Byass), Amy-Lee’s wet and nervous husband, but as the night progresses he’s forced to finally discard all his illusions about the past and, albeit unwillingly face the future. The Actors: Rohan Jones is great as Roy, managing to be desperately vulnerable beneath his swaggering put downs and rough housing, and Simon King shines as Ray, the slightly dimwitted brother who will do anything to gain Roy’s approval. …”Review Weekly” 9 May 1997
Inside & Out Mag_Theatre / 6 MAY 1997
Reviews by Jacinta Tyler
The finely judged direction by Peter Sardi provides Theatre which is accessible and entertaining. The narrative is strong here, the stage-craft well-handled. Lone Star, holds interest with Rohan Jones and Simon King giving good performances as dysfunctional brothers Roy and Ray. Penned by James McLure, the play is set in a Texas town in the early seventies, and looks at various themes including loneliness, marriage, mateship and isolation.
Minnesota Moon … by John Olive
Directed by Peter Sardi
The Melbourne Independent 7 MAY 2004
Reviews by Kris Weber
This play explores the relationship between a pair of young men who are about to be separated. One is going off to college and the other is staying in their small hometown in Minnesota. As they drink beer in a corn field, they talk about their hopes and dreams but the light hearted banter is soon replaced by a darker mood as they begin to remember the death of their friend, Terry. Timothy O’Dwyer and Mark Currie were both compelling as the life long friends from a small town who are not ashamed, as men, to draw comfort from each other. Under Peter Sardi‘s direction, both Timothy and Mark moved confidently and purposefully through the space. The play was pacy with just the right amount of energy. Timing and movement were apt and a very strong connection was established between the two actors and their work. Each actor was adhering to the principle of ‘acting in the moment’ wherein dialogue was delivered in a spontaneous and fresh manner. Each character was clearly defined and completely believable – the craft of acting was clearly evidenced in these performances. Emotions ranged from manly, rugged bravado to an almost desperate sorrow with each actor rising admirably to the task of truthful storytelling. The set was a simple affair that used an old car seat, a pile of hay and other decorative touches to depict the cornfield. Props were masterfully handled and costuming was appropriate. Effective use was made of lighting which assisted in moving the story and enhancing the mood. Overall: A riveting well-constructed, well-acted piece of theatre.
Birdbath … by Leonard Melfi
Directed by Peter Sardi
Impress Magazine_Melbourne Theatre / 3 DEC. 2000
Reviews by Vanessa Paech
Lights up: New York City, the evening of February 13th. Frankie Basta, a melancholy and disheartened writer, working a banal job to make ends meet, finds his world indelibly altered when the quirky, painfully nervous waitress Velma Sparrow discovers him sitting dejected at his work station. They exchange a look. A word or two. Another look. An irrevocable chain of events has been set in motion. Nothing is as it seems in Melfi’s tale of two people searching for peace amidst the lunacy of the world they live in. At the heart of this journey is the actor Tamara Donnellan, whose tortured Velma Sparrow was an exquisite bird to behold ? enormously engaging from her initial entrance in an eruption of nervous giggles right through to the final agonizing scene in which the true horror of Velma’s circumstances are revealed. Tamara’s delivery of the scene reverberates well after the plays close and her extraordinarily nuanced physicality as Velma was enthralling. Demonstrating impressive instincts she spoke volumes with every tremble, shuffle and gesture. Director Peter Sardi retained a firm grasp on the proverbial reigns, pacing the gradually intensifying drama in satisfying fashion. I love watching actors who are so magnetic, have so finely tuned an instrument that they can command my attention with a simple breath, or the slightest turn of the head. Ms. Donnellan is one of these actors. Her handling of Velma’s expression of longing for a true Valentine was so achingly beautiful I wanted to leap from the audience and shower her with cards and roses. Good use of the space was made; including a particularly interesting choice to play an early outdoor scene high in the rafters, offering an unusual perspective for the audience. Overall, Birdbath, with its textured portrayal of souls battered but not beaten, was a pleasure to dive into”.
The Passing Of Erwin … by Darren Markey
Directed by Peter Sardi
Impress Magazine_Melbourne Theatre / 11 OCTOBER. 1994
Reviews by James Gardener
Director Peter Sardi makes the whole production flow and skilfully holds the audience’s attention with the production seemingly presented in two distinct modes: the first act is almost purely entertaining with the colloquial humour providing continuous relief from an otherwise oppressive situation while the second act is far more provoking and analytical. Darren Markey’s The Passing of Erwin seems to pass very quickly despite the fact that the two acts total nearly ninety minutes. To me this was a sign that I had been thoroughly entertained and engrossed instead of thinking ‘how long to go’ as I have sometimes done with other productions. The Passing of Erwin is a thoughtful exploration of the current meaning of ‘mateship’ a concept that has long been a sacred cow in the loves of Australian males but now seems to have become nebulous in its meaning to ‘blokes’ of today. Darren Markey’s play is relevant without being cliched and augurs well for the future of Australian theatre. Markey’s triumph is his use of the Australian vernacular in an entertaining way that is by no means patronising. The language amuses and provokes while colloquialisms and local humour flow naturally from the actors.
Melboure Beat Magazine_Theatre / 16 OCTOBER. 1994
Reviews by Pina Careri
The fourth production of The Passing of Erwin, directed by Peter Sardi, has been the best production to date. Less verbose than past in highlighting the morose and intense emotions associated with death through superb and realistic acting. Even though the play has a morbid theme, the humour involved makes it pleasant to watch and the acting leaves you feeling that the whole intention is so real.
The script is riddled with one-liners that leave the audience in hysterics. So there it is, a complex script that centres on the differences between mates rather than the similarities, but there is a similarity that keeps them united, their reaction to Erwin’s death. Even though all the characters cope with Erwin’s passing away on a different level, they all combine to keep his memory alive and ‘get pissed’ together at his wedding. Confused? Don’t be. The Passing of Erwin is Darren Markey’s debut as a playwright and it clearly demonstrates the complexity of his writing.