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Sunday on the Rocks at Bread & Roses Theatre | Review

There’s not much that makes sense to me in this show – why indeed are Elly (Candace Leung), Gayle (Rachael Bellis) and Jen (Olivia Gibbs-Fairley) drinking at 9:30am? Aren’t the best conversations at home involving putting the world to rights the ones that happen late into the night? I can’t say I can relate to having a stiff drink in the morning, apart from that time I saw three different productions of Les Misérables in London in one weekend to mark that show’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 2010 – I stubbornly wouldn’t deviate from personal habit and had a pre-show wine prior to a 10:30am performance.

Sunday on the Rocks at Bread and Roses Theatre. Photo credit: Paddy Gormley.
Sunday on the Rocks at Bread and Roses Theatre. Photo credit: Paddy Gormley.

Anyway, Jessica (Julie Cheung-Inhin) is apparently attending church and is unlikely to return straight away once the service has finished, spending the afternoon with Geoffrey (one of several unseen male characters). Elly, in particular, has issues with her: despite a house-share arrangement of some kind, it would appear Jessica has granted herself moral authority to dictate all sorts of living arrangements, even down to what flavours and brands of soup are permitted in their house.

The play has the feel of ‘first world problems’, especially when there’s talk of the four women possibly discontinuing their current living arrangement – an entirely realistic scenario, since it only takes one of them to find a new job in a different city, or move in with a new partner, or any of the dozens of different reasons why people move on to occur. The horror of the prospect of getting a ‘real job’ in order to pay ‘real rent’ seems to feed on the perception that certain people in every generation seem to have of the generation below it: they’re all a bunch of snowflakes who are incapable of a hard day’s work. It’s tempting to think, as the bickering and (mis)interpretations of who said what to whom continue, that the women frankly deserve one another. It was difficult to sympathise with any of them.

That, of course, does not mean the cast don’t do a good job – they are, in essence, thoroughly convincing in portraying a rather indulgent generation at a rather indulgent time. Thirty years since it premiered, the play has become something of a period piece, with a solitary rotary phone between the four of them meaning they are invariably picking up calls intended for someone else. In this most American of scenarios, it’s a surprise nobody grabs a gun at some point – Jen has an altercation with Richardson, a man who loves her but who she doesn’t love back, and the reason why she doesn’t want Elly, or anyone else, calling the police is both darkly amusing and affirmative.

The narrative isn’t entirely watertight – abortion and surrogacy are discussed in tandem without drawing breath, but not, y’know, contraception. In the days before Google searches, three of the four women resort to a Ouija board and then prayer for answers to their questions, with predictably negligible results. But there is a lot to consider here, despite self-indulgent characters, who possibly, just possibly, might be no more or less self-indulgent than anyone else. There’s sufficient dramatic tension in this briskly paced production, punchy in more ways than one.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Elly – Candace Leung
Gayle – Rachael Bellis
Jen – Olivia Gibbs-Fairley
Jessica – Julie Cheung-Inhin

Playwright – Theresa Rebeck
Director – Rachael Bellis
Producer – Klutzy Dragon

It’s an idyllic Sunday in a sleepy Boston suburb, and three housemates decide to have scotch for breakfast, naturally. A Theresa Rebeck masterpiece, Sunday on the Rocks, explores the problems of several young women in the nineties. Elly is pregnant and considering an abortion, Jen is being harassed by a coworker, and Gayle feels lost. Their problems are exacerbated by a fourth roommate — Jessica — whose religious compassion and activist zeal does not extend to their individual problems. As they drink, debate, discuss, and dance, it becomes clear just how muddied making a moral decision is in a world with only shades of grey.

Sunday on the Rocks
Wednesday 22 May to Saturday 1 June 2024
Bread and Roses Theatre

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