All That I Will Ever Be
A brave and interesting production of “All That I Will Ever Be” is Fly on The Wall Theatre’s latest offering this season at Chapel off Chapel. This play, an Australian premiere, is written by Alan Ball whose work would be familiar to many having seen his screenplay work in the film “American Beauty” and the tv series “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood”.
Ball’s brilliant writing allows this piece to move swiftly and the edgy and daring content demands a lot from both director and cast. There are lots of funny one-liners, and a powerful message by the end that forces you to not only observe but also acutely listen.
Ball’s premise is that Omar (Francisco Lopez), a mobile phone sales person, sells his body and fantasies to both men and women changing his story and nationality as needed – be it an Arabian stallion, a Greek lover or a simple Beirut boy. His involvement with rich drop out Dwight (Christian Heath) forces them both to question their attitudes to intimacy, the truth and the decision to live in the real world or not. Directed by Robert Chuter, the play moves along nicely using a central couch in a variety of ways – from a sales counter, to bed, to couch to cafe table. This ingenious use of props allowed scenes to move rapidly and not over clutter the tight space. Clever interpretations of scene placement, well crafted stage movement and deliberate pausing and controlled anger showed Chuter’s experience and insight into the characters’ preoccupations and required emotional journeys.
The production visuals by Christopher Pender, Steph Kleeman and Simone Prentice added an appealing framework to the placing of each scene and the music, though a tad too loud at times, was well chosen and relevant to the moods being expressed.
Lopez has a large load to carry appearing in most scenes and requiring a range of attitudes and emotions. For the most part, he did a good job. At times he was awkward and unclear in his diction (especially in the first mobile sales scene which was way too rushed) and sometimes lost rhythm with his switching moods and dialogue which didn’t allow key moments to reach their peak. Having said that, his attraction to and growing love for Dwight was utterly convincing and showed real maturity and depth. However, Lopez’s real talent was showcased in the strong second half–where he expertly conveyed an inner struggle when he attends to an older customer, Raymond (Phil Roberts) and is forced to face the fact that to love others is to love yourself and be true to who you really are. Roberts’ innate gift for storytelling and pausing was used to good effect, and Lopez was utterly credible in his awakening response to this truth, making it one of the most poignant and memorable moments in the play and well followed by the moment of truth with Dwight in the next scene. Sarah Roberts in both roles as Cynthia (Omar’s girlfriend) and Beth (Dwight’s friend) was compelling. Her timing for and delivery of the comedic lines was impeccable and convincing. The only scene that seemed a little forced was when she breaks up with Omar at the industry party after he’s insulted her boss Chuck Bennett (played with good effect by Matthew Walsh). Here the dialogue and actions between the two of them became unsure and stilted.
However, the real stand out from this production was Christian Heath (Dwight), he is a natural on stage – possessing a charismatic stage presence and real conviction through a myriad of emotions that were demanded of him. He was always clear and had excellent tonal variation and facial expressions making him someone to both like, dislike and empathise with at the same time. Heath’s scene with his dad Phil (well played by Sebastian Gunner) was one of the highlights of this performance – for it showcased both men at believable odds and discomfort with each other.
Fly on the Wall Theatre are well known for their distinct interpretations and this play afforded them the opportunity to showcase their passion and preference for plays that challenge us both visually with some pretty confronting yet necessary male nude sexual scenes, as well as bringing out the human element of emotion as also required. Well done to all the cast and crew who took on the challenge of translating this from a sell out play reading earlier this year to a fully staged work so quickly with predominantly the same people involved.