V.D. – Pete Malicki and the monologue that just keeps getting better. (Theatre Review)
The Monologue Project
May 7,9 and 10.
He takes my hand, walks me to the car, even opening the car door for me. The date passes in a blur of nerves and I quick;y get the impression that Dan Hunsford has no intention of killing, raping, scamming or religiously converting me. He is the perfect gentleman, who drives at the speed limit, makes eye contact, listens to every word of my nervous babble and even buys me lobster. Cute, polite, charming, intelligent, funny, perfect in every way.
Naturally this makes me suspicious.
It all starts with a lamentation over the prospect of a sixteenth failed Valentines Day. Sophie, our erstwhile protagonist, receives flowers from an anonymous admirer who asks her out to dinner the next evening – Valentines Day. For a woman who buys a cat for every failed Valentines Day, and is mother to ten cats, Sophie is understandably sceptical about what might be coming her way, however when the man of her dreams turns up at the door, claiming to have had a crush on her since school days when he was a couple of years ahead of her, things seem to be going well. Until, that is, she manages to self sabotage.
V.D., a monologue written by Pete Malicki and performed by Eliza St John is one of those projects that started out as a ten minute Short and Sweet play, and has grown and developed into a hilarious and deeply entertaining hour-long monologue in which Eliza St john carries the audience in the palm of her hand, perfectly delivering Malicki’s script that gets stronger with every incarnation. I’ve seen a few of Pete Malicki’s plays now, but this is by far his strongest, the wit and confidence shining through every performed word. V.D. is a simple tale, beautifully told, but it is achingly funny, made all the more so by St John’s excellent performance. She owns the character Sophie, they have morphed into one, and the result is one of those rare moments when you get to see the right writer and the perfect performer working in a flawless harmony seasoned well through collaboration and a relentless enthusiasm for continued development of a project. I’ve seen the ten minute play version, and I can confidently say, the monologue gets stronger and funnier with each performance. The performance of V.D. I attended at The New Theatre earned St John a well deserved several minute long, standing ovation.
What is also particularly remarkable about V.D. and speaks to the brilliant collaborative relationship between Malicki and St John is the fact that Sophie is not a particularly likeable character, however her flaws are our own, making us squirm with uncomfortable recognition, and Malicki never lets Sophie get away with her unpleasantness. In its extended version, Sophie is goes on a journey to find herself, through another relationship and an overseas pilgrimage, all the stuff of contemporary pop self awareness, but served with a double dose of irony laden respect for the absolutely average human being in all their glorious flaws and weaknesses. Just as Malicki exposes Sophie’s pathos, he never judges, leaving all that to the circumstances of her fate, and Sophie herself to work out. The simplicity of this formula provides a spectacular opportunity for the audience to be entertained and to connect with Sophie transforming her into a much-loved friend by the end of her journey. The wit holds us in place and keeps us intently focussed, but the warmth and bumbling charm of Sophie’s self-awareness posited alongside her repeated mistakes bring her close to our heart.
However, in the deft hands of St John, Malicki’s clever and lovely script comes passionately alive. St John weaves her tale fast, using techniques of comedy and theatricality together so the audiences finds themselves held by the duel hands of anticipation and hook. It’s part of what makes the play such an enormous pleasure to experience, St John speaks rapidly, we race to keep up with her, the jokes firing one after the other, and yet we are also ahead of her, anticipating the results of her disastrous choices, knowing exactly where she is headed. This opens up the awareness to deeply engaging theatre, that sees an hour fly by without noticing. I was wondering how V.D., a very clever monologue with a clear punchline could be transformed into an hours length, but this is never a problem for St, John who effortlessly delivers more Sophie, which is what we didn’t know we really came to see.
V.D. has improved on an already great play in other ways also. Lisa Eismen has been directing V.D. from the start, fleshing the character of Sophie out through subtle costume changes, a broader movement around the stage, and mostly enhancing and deepening St John’s already fine performance. Movement is more precise now, more connected with narrative rather than the actors response to their own experience. The empty stage doesn’t feel quite so any longer, and the extended movement seems to grow Sophie’s world, so she is more and more recognisable in ourselves and in the person next to us in the street. V.D. is a lovely little piece of pleasurable theatre, with enough wit and charm to keep you glued to the performance, and enough warmth and heart to get you thinking.