9 November 2011
Fairfax, the Arts Theatre
to 17 December
As 2011 gave playwright Lally Katz new productions at Malthouse, Belvoir Street and now the MTC, she may not the darling of our indie set any more. And while it's exciting to see her wonderfully dark and funny writing widely loved and appreciated, Return to Earth was left in orbit.
Katz's first main-stage MTC show isn't as black as some of her previous works. Her displaced seaside town is recognisable, but its darkness is lit by the safety of family and love. There's still sadness and mystery, but without the discomfort that I've come to expect from Katz.
Alice (Eloise Mignon) is welcomed home by her parents (Julie Forsyth and Kym Gyngell) who can see how much she knows people from her answers to Bert's Family Feud but have to remind her how to set the table and that her name used to be Erica. Her widowed brother, ill niece, childless best friend and new mechanic beau are more suspicious of her return.
Katz continues to create worlds as delicate and intricate as a handmade lace doily that's been attacked with a packet of Textas and used to wipe up the remains of a dead pet. For all their not-quite-rightness, her worlds make complete sense in their oddness. But while the cast, especially Forsyth and Gyngell, grasp her tone and rhythm, there's a sense that something is holding it back and keeping its dangers hidden.
This left it feeling less intimate than some of her other works; not tiny-stage intimacy, but the knowledge and connection with the characters that leaves us knowing them better than they know themselves. For all the spot-on performances, the characters felt like they were just being introduced to us and it was over before they had the chance to tell the stories they really wanted to tell.