The Good, the Bad and the Lawyer is the thirteenth play from Sydney writer Tony Laumberg, and the fifth to feature the racist, sexist lawyer Henry and his good-humoured wife Margaret. It's easy to see why Laumberg is drawn back to these characters: their caustic bickering provides the perfect backdrop for drama and their comfortable lives are just begging to be shaken up.
In this farcical comedy, the shaking comes from several angles: Mark is being interviewed for a Financial Review article about prominent lawyers, Margaret has just invited an overly affectionate Iranian refugee to stay in their house while his application for asylum is processed, and Mickey, his deadbeat cousin from Brisbane, arrives unexpectedly with a genius scheme to make a million dollars fast. It's a set up which is achieved through breakneck banter, some zinging one-liners, and an irreverent sense of timing. Laumberg's dialogue shines, and the audience is regularly in stitches.
Unfortunately, however, the strong premise does not quite deliver, and the ending flails. While the humour remains throughout, the two-hour running time lags, especially in the less-than-comfortable chairs of the TAP Gallery Theatre. A sub-plot involving a fortune teller feels irrelevant and a needless side-step from the main action. The climactic scenes tie all the loose ends neatly together – leaving a sense of “all's well that ends well” at the conclusion.
The characters are nothing we haven't seen before, but that's not really a problem in a farce such as this: here we have the uptight, corporate clone who doesn't want his comfortable world disturbed, the Martini-swilling wife who is smarter than he is, the shrewd and cunning journalist, and the overweight, affable Queensland bogan. Nonetheless, despite the fact that these caricatures are familiar, they are still entertaining and the performances generally strong: Tricia Youlden as Margaret, in particular, manages to break out of the alcoholic wife mould and bring some intrigue to her role. It is only the refugee who grates – the mathematician Ahmed Zahedi, as played by Geoff Sirmai, is Manuel with a wavering accent, mincing between chairs, kissing hands, and generally playing up every stereotype you might imagine. It is a difficult role which would have benefitted from some subtlety, especially when paired with the high-energy roaring of the other major characters. And while we are warned at the outset that any fun poked at St Ives is purely intentional, it is not the Sydney suburb but Brisbane which suffers – its 1980s reputation as a backwater firmly entrenched here, without acknowledgement that the city may have evolved somewhat past thong-clad dimwits.
There is a sense of chaos pervading the entire show which isn't always under the actors' and director's control. Madcap it may be, but at times it threatens to descend into disarray. However, order is maintained – just – and the play delivers on its program's promise for “a laughfest with more twists and turns than a bag of pretzels.”