Made for Each Other

Mon 20th – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Rivkah Brown

at 01:21 on 21st Aug 2012

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The words ‘one man show’ usually strike fear into my heart, as I imagine the toe-curling incongruity of what is essentially serious stand-up. With Monica Bauer’s outstanding new writing ‘Made for Each Other’, however, you can put such fears aside.

The story itself is subtle and complex, a fact which the flyer’s soap opera-sounding strapline (‘You are invited to the wedding of Vincent and Jerry...IF they go through with it’) trashily misrepresents, though its ‘Best Solo Show’ and ‘Best Actor in Solo Show’ nominations at the NYC Festival certainly do not. The more I read about Monica Bauer, a seemingly prolific and much decorated playwright, the less this surprises me. John Fico plays both semi-closeted Vincent and his ‘Italian shetland pony’ of a fiancé Jerry, as well as Vincent’s mother and Jerry’s grandfather, both of whom haunt their relatives’ respective psyches.

Fico’s Vincent breathes new life into the rather tired cliché of (as Vincent himself tactfully puts it) the ‘fag over fifty’; he seems to self-consciously play up to this stereotype, whilst his finely-crafted persona, both searingly witty and terrifyingly vulnerable, inadvertently undermines it. Jerry, the sexy nurse Vincent meets on a hospital visit, is his ‘trail leading me out of chaos into order’; or, more crudely, into a steamy romp in the supplies cupboard. Carnality aside, Bauer’s expression of Vincent’s love at first sight is intense and poetic. Despite being concentrated in one person, the characters of Vincent and Jerry are well-defined, and the dynamics of their premarital relationship heart-rendingly credible.

If it were possible to single out a particular ‘character’ which fascinated me most, it would be Grandpa Damiano. Though certainly not the protagonist of the show, he became somehow the linchpin of Vincent and Jerry’s relationship; it is his accepting and positive attitude towards his homosexual grandson Jerry which is both its lifeblood and its undoing. I was deeply impressed by the clear signs of grandparental and parental influence in each of the fiancés characters: Jerry’s devil-may-care attitude and smoking habit inherited from his grandfather, Vincent’s lustrous theatricality, the sure bequest of his mother. Such generational interweaving served to further strengthen the holistic feel of Fico’s performance whilst deepening the pathos to an almost unbearable extent.

It is Bauer’s lightness of touch which tips ‘Made for Each Other’ into brilliance. She laughs in the face of death, she texts from the brink of disaster. And she leaves us with a startlingly simple truth, resounding within but also far beyond the lives of Vincent and Jerry: ‘The truth matters - without it, what’ve you got?’

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Charlie Brookhouse

at 09:58 on 21st Aug 2012

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Monica Bauer’s ‘Made for Each Other’ is a clever piece of design. The only actor, John Fico, quadruples as two gay lovers, mother and grandfather. ‘You are invited to the wedding of Vincent and Jerry … IF they go through with it’ says the program. But the practical impossibility of displaying any such union with a single actor is soon apparent. If opposites attract, then the conventions of the stage suggest that equals repel. Fico’s very own versatility dismantles this corollary in a performance that routinely challenges assumptions about sameness and difference.

‘All actors are selfish pricks’ proclaims Vincent, when, little does he know, his partner is about to give up being a male nurse and enter into theatre. Vincent’s assertion is motivated by the self-obsession of his mother, an actress who could have made it on Broadway (or so she says) had she not got knocked up and had him. For Jerry, Vincent’s lover, the inspiration to go back to theatre is inspired by the words of his dead grandfather. Jerry is painfully oblivious to the change of face implied by his turn of phrase when he describes this decision as a return to his ‘first love’. The team of Bauer and director, John D.FitzGibbon, ingeniously extend this habitual unknowing to the audience. Laughing with the audience at a joke of his about smoking, the friendly ghost of Jerry’s grandfather then sidles into a violent and grave coughing fit. As the audience is silenced, the avuncular figure then smacks his leg as he laughs off our own seeming gullibility. Weakness is frequently acknowledged through the partial success of prophylactic humour. In this case, Jerry’s grandfather does ultimately pass as a result of his emphysema. More broadly, wilful ignorance is reflected in Jerry’s casual forgetfulness and is repeated in Vincent’s worsening Alzheimer’s. Vincent’s self-deprecating humour – ‘my love handles’ – acts as a simultaneous admission and denial of anxiety.

Bauer’s technical play works because Fico has complete mastery over his four roles. Vincent loves a good gag, and his cocked wrists, defined lips and quiet confessions – ‘science gets me hot’ –balance a stereotype against his delivery of some of the show’s sharpest one-liners: ‘They call us “Gay” … pff … it’s like we’re happy all the time’. Free and full of such humour and humanity, ‘Made for Each Other’ is a show for everyone.

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