Performed as part of La Mama's 2015 Explorations season and developed with the assistance of Theatre 451, Beers and Trees by Allee Richards is a humorous yet thoughtful look at not only what makes a person strive for good, but what makes a 'good' activist and just how important this activity is? We all want to change the world and make it better for everyone but we also want to be happy and fulfilled by our own needs and desires. It's a fine balancing act to get it just right and the question of where this balance lies is what the five characters presented here attempt to answer.
Adrian Del-Re is the stand out performer in the cast with his portrayal of Brad being highly natural, nuanced and convincing. The delivery really highlights the comfort that Del-Re has found with this character, and his scenes with Julia Hanna (Ruby) are the most entertaining of the show. Playwright Richards has succeeded admirably in finding clear voices for these two characters and really fleshing them out.
Relatively new to the independent theatre scene, Luke Costabile delivers a solid performance as Wes, who despite his activist ways, is just as confused as everyone else. The script falters a little in the development of Violet and Isaac (Caitlin Lavery and A.J Steele). While the two performers do well dealing with their characters, I found much of the dialogue didn't drive the point that is trying to be made and the conversations ending up being more of a tool for Violet and Isaac to antagonise each other.
The direction by Lisa Inman and Tref Gare is consistent throughout, with meaningful actions and body language opening up the possibility for much interpretation. With regard to plot however, Beers and Trees starts out strongly, but towards the final stretch it becomes a little confusing and too wordy. The climax is missing a strong build up and the abrupt ending goes against the mood the rest of the show seems to have so carefully focused on.
I am eager to see how Beer and Trees progresses in its next incarnation. With a few small changes in the storyline and some characters, there is potential for this to be a stronger and even more engaging production all round.
Beers and Trees was performed between 6 -8 November 2016.
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 11 November.