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Aussie play big hit for Repertory! Review by Paul Brooks

It was a small but enthusiastic audience at Repertory’s Saturday night performance of Summer Wonderland, a comedy by Australian playwright Matthew Ryan, directed for Repertory by Kerry Girdwood

Even before the first line was spoken there were complimentary remarks from the comfy seats about the stage set being up to its usual high standard.

The play is set in Dickens Court, a typical Australian suburban street, between 7am on December 23 and midnight on December 24. There are four houses, the occupants of which constitute the cast — and what a cast!

There’s Bob Jones (Phil Hudson), the middle-aged, unemployed father of Foster (Mike Pyefinch). Bob is forever working on his car and relying on Foster, apprentice mechanic, to pay the bills and underwrite his beer account.

Bob’s wife—unseen—is represented by a car driving away at speed. You get the picture.

Young Foster dreams of travelling the world, specifically to Bavaria to see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, built by King Ludwig II in the 19th century. Foster composes verbal ‘‘Agony Aunt’’ letters to the long-dead king as he makes his plans and saves his money for the trip.

Across the street lives social climber and corporate wanna-be, Marti Hall (Kathy Rookes) who despises Bob, Foster and all they stand for, so she’s a little put out —to put it mildly—when her daughter Demoiselle (Jordan Wills) develops an affection for the young Jones lad. Marti has long fed her daughter the story that she is a high achiever and the world is hers for the asking. Her ambitions are obviously higher thanamechanic and his ne’er-do-well father.

Demoiselle provides the light love interest and lives in an old farmhouse next door to her mother, a token gesture towards her independence and obvious social status.

The other house, a nondescript residence of no particular appeal, is occupied by Eugene Walker (Ivan Siemonek) and his mail order Russian bride, Svetlana (Polly Pyefinch). Eugene is an odd character, enchanted by the sounds from the Jones household and disliked by the woman for whom he paid $10,000. She, on the other hand, finds young Foster very attractive.

Add to the mix the eccentric Mrs Leopold (Lynn Taylor), former resident of Demoiselle’s farmhouse and constant visitor to Dickens Court. She forgets she sold the farm to a developer and wanders in to feed her chooks and talk about Jesus. She’s harmless and adds an interesting element to the story.

Then there’s Gustav (Dominic Burrell), member of the Russian Mafia and all-round villain who’s out to complicate the life of Eugene.

Lastly is an appearance by the deceased King Ludwig II (Max Restieaux), who wanders in most regally to give Foster a much-needed pep talk.

Marie and I loved this play and recommend it to everyone. The actors did a fantastic job, giving their characters flesh and endearing themselves to the audience. They were all, without exception, well cast and did a fine job.

Phil was the perfect Bob and Mike gave a terrific performance as Foster. Together they commanded the stage and interracted well as father and son. Kathy Rookes is a superb comedy actor and made us laugh even when she wasn’t delivering lines. Preparing herself for her pilates class was most entertaining—and showed credibility too (which is not surprising).

Newcomer Jordan was sweet as Demoiselle and provided the perfect contrast to her domineering mother. She did a nice job of putting Foster in his place, too. Ivan played Eugene perfectly and the total lack of chemistry with Polly was deliberate and convincing. Polly’s performance was exuberant and realistic, with a great accent to boot.

I liked Mrs Leopold and the dimension she added to the play — and the street. Dominic plays a great baddie (also with a faultless accent) and was particularly well cast. And Max… a nice surprise and a beautiful performance. He is now how I imagine Ludwig II to be.

Well-acted, well-directed and support from the production team make this a play not-to-bemissed. You have a few days left so go see it. You’ll love it.