Directed by Kim Hardwick
Darlinghurst Theatre Company
39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst
Season: 9 June – 9 July
An estranged married couple sit in a hotel room. They're attempting to relight the flame in the relationship. Things aren't looking good. The scene switches to show a the same man in the couple having an affair. Then again, to show the woman having an affair. All in the one location, we see multiple couples struggling with fidelity and seeking sexual enjoyment. For them, it appears to be rife with guilt and questioning of true feelings. Written and performed by Jeanette Cronin, alongside actor Paul Gleeson, and directed by Kim Hardwick, this play asks a lot of both its performers and of its audience to keep up with the pace.
There are at least 4 different couples exhibited during the play, with rapid transitions between the roles. To deal with this, the actors have distinct voices, habits and demeanours to differentiate between roles. Some of these shifts can be amusing, however didn't always feel like the character distinctions served the story well. It is quite difficult to follow and work out who is cheating on who, remember who the child is and who it belongs to, etc. Furthermore, the contrived voices and mannerisms prevent the actors from speaking with truth in the character's situation. Structurally it is a difficult play because of the lack of a through-line narrative. It felt as if every time you become accustomed to the current story and understand what is going on, the scene would change again. This mentality seemed to make it difficult for the actors to commit to every moment - you could anticipate that the actors were going to pull away from a kiss and change scenes when they were about to kiss. It was as if there is so much going on in the play of which the actors had to stay on top, that they were evidently thinking ahead instead of being present in each of the character's thoughts and actions.
Considering the whole play is centred on hotel room conversations, Hardwick and the performers manage to incorporate a significant amount of action into the play to keep audiences engaged. There are central motifs that link to duplicity and the search for clarity and truth, including searching for lost items, the repeated trying on and taking off of glasses and exposing and covering up one's own body. There is nudity in the play, which requires Cronin to be vulnerable and obliges a strong commitment to the role. I felt that a more fiery chemistry between Cronin and Gleeson would have alluded to sex more effectively than outright nudity. We see glimpses where inhibitions are cast aside and these moments are truly wonderful and often very funny - just too infrequent on the whole. The featuring of live musicians and tango dance is a welcome enmeshing of the arts in the production, with the keyboard and guitar played by Max Lambert and Roger Lock, visible behind a red-tinted panel upstage. It often enhances the mood of scenes for comic relief or tightening tension.
I Love You Now speaks into our contemporary context where 1 in 3 Australian marriages end in divorce. The play is interesting and fast-paced, but by the end of the show I wasn't really sure what I was meant to take away from the story. There aren't any complete conclusions and we don't spend long enough with any of the characters to become invested in their lives. If anything, you can go along for quite an entertaining evening and allow the characters to play our these 'what if' situations and make any potential mistakes so you don't have to - you know it likely won't end well.