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THEATRE: 07 FEBRUARY 2016

By JOHN ROZENTALS

Jack of Hearts, by David Williamson | Directed by David Williamson

Ensemble Theatre (http://ensemble.com.au) | Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, Sydney | Until 2 April

For a while, especially during the First Act of the premiere at Kirribilli’s Ensemble Theatre of David Williamson’s Jack of Hearts, everything was right with the theatrical world and it was a very nice place to be.

Despite a slightly delayed start due to some technical glitches, the writing was scintillating, the wit outstanding and the stars — principally The Chaser’s Chris Taylor and Craig Reucassel — stood feet from the net and engaged in the sharpest of rallies. It was like watching Newcombe and Roche in the good old days of wooden-racqueted tennis.

I'm sorry, I can remember the lines no more than hit a crisp backhand volley.

Tensions were solidly built and it seemed that Williamson had reserved some of his best writing for his 50th play. It wasn’t going to quite rate with earlier works such as The Club, Don’s Party and The Removalists, but it was certainly going to go close.

Jack (Taylor) is a lovable loser — a legal without the toughness for the trade and a desire for a more meaningful, creative life.

His ‘good mate’ Stu (Reucassel), a moderately successful but highly ambitious and unscrupulous real-estate operator, warns Jack that his laid-back attitude to life is beginning to threaten his relationship with the leggy, impressionable personal trainer Emma (Paige Gardiner).

And sure enough, Emma falls for the charismatic but egocentric TV presenter Carl (Peter Mochrie) and leaves Jack well and truly floundering.

Stu, meanwhile, has plenty on his own plate, with his wife Denys (Brooke Satchwell) knowing full well that he’s ‘rooting’ junior staffer Nikki (Isabella Tannock), who incidentally does as fantastic job in the Second Act impersonating his masturbation while watching porn on his computer.

To complicate matters, enter — quite possibly unnecessarily — Kelli (Christa Nicola), the proprietor of the resort where Jack lands a job at as a baggage handler and manages to also score a gig as a stand-up comic.

To cut to the chase, Jack contrives for everyone to land at the said resort on the same weekend ... and there are the obvious confrontations and stoushes.

It’s here, though, that Williamson seems to lose his way a little and let Taylor’s role take over the play. He gets perhaps a little too philosophical and concentrates a tad too much on Jack the stand-up comic rather than on the potential of a richly tapestried comic confrontation.

And then there’s the baggage Williamson has long carried with him ... that his female characters don’t have sufficient weight and are merely adjuncts to the males. But that’s another story that I’ll let you make your own mind about.

It’s certainly a worthwhile and interesting few hours, and hearty congratulations David on a very fine achievement in notching up a half century.

Above: Chris Taylor and Craig Reucassel. All images: Clare Hawley.

Brooke Satchwell and Craig Reucassel.

Chris Taylor and Christa Nicola.

Craig Reucassel and Isabella Tannock.

Paige Gardiner and Chris Taylor.