It’s a good thing, on balance, for The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone to be nuanced and deep enough not to make it too obvious what precisely those two sides are. This isn’t a variation of Jekyll and Hyde, though if I were to hazard a guess I would imagine there’s a public-facing side and a private side. But even this is too rudimentary a distinction, as there really is no indication of Eddie (Chris Sullivan) being that much different when doing his stand-up routine as opposed to talking in lengthy soliloquies away from the crowds.
Don’t be put off by my description of the soliloquies as ‘lengthy’. I’ve seen a fair number of shows over the years that unnecessarily over complicate things by switching between scenes, backwards and forwards, not in chronological order, and it is hard work trying to untangle a confusing storyline. Here, the simplicity of both the minimalist set and the plot’s linear progression is refreshing. Lengthy, at least as far as this play goes, is good. Lengthy means the audience gets to know both Eddie and his daughter Katie (Shian Denovan) really well, and isn’t expending energy constantly re-orientating ourselves to yet another quick change of scene.
This production does let itself down, however, by being too slowly paced. I would not want to call for a breakneck pace – there are enough plays out there that are in a hurry, thank you very much – but the almost relentless serene and moderated tones, even when Katie is taking the audience on a journey through some rather harrowing personal experiences, makes the play stodgier than the script is. There is no need for melodramatic emotionalism, of course, but being quite so blasé about the tough challenges in Katie’s life makes her character less than fully credible. Okay, these characters are British, and are the epitome of stiff upper lip stoicism, but this is live theatre, and I think the show could have benefited from more of the thoughts and feelings in the script being demonstrably acted out rather than merely described.
The more distressing elements of the plot are balanced out by several excerpts of Eddie’s comedy routines, which were, for the most part, genuinely amusing, if of an outdated style. Not for him the aggressive put-downs and character assassinations of a lot of comedy acts these days, but pleasant jokes. Katie’s choice of career, broadly within the same industry as her father’s, threatens to give the play an aura of self-indulgence. There are some insightful musings on the life of an itinerant entertainer, particularly one with a solo act.
I understand this is not the first production of this show, which has been revised and expanded. There is still yet more room for improvement, but as it is, this is a thoughtful, intelligent and intelligible play.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone
Just Maximum Productions in association with Jermyn Street Theatre presents The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone, written and directed by Chris Sullivan.
Eddie Ramone – a 50 something 60 something comedian has been doing the cruises for many years ever since he left a top rated TV game show after a dubious scandal and tragedy. One time during his act he has an out of body experience and lets his act continue on ‘auto pilot’ till something happens which drives him back to the inner turmoil which has haunted him for years, the story of how his daughter went missing in Los Angeles all those years ago . . . .
The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone is now a full length play which will introduce Eddie’s daughter, Katie, to the proceedings and is played by Shian Denovan, a nominee for the Best Actress Stage Awards for her role in Snap Catch Slam at The Pleasance during the Edinburgh Fringe. Shian has just won best actress at the Nice International Film Festival for her role in Birthday.
Starring Chris Sullivan and Shian Denovan.
Monday, 25th – Saturday, 30th July 2016