A dark comedy for these times, Ulster American is extremely funny, extremely uncomfortable and a little shocking.
Written by hotshot Northern Irish playwright David Ireland (Cyprus Avenue) for the UK’s Traverse Theatre Company, Ulster American arrives in Adelaide having divided critics during its 2018 Edinburgh Fringe run, especially a pivotal scene.
In a minimal, clean and trendy London hotel room, Oscar-winning American actor Jay Conway (a fantastically entertaining Darrell D’Silva) is making uptight British theatre director Leigh Carver (Robert Jack) quite uncomfortable. The loud-mouth American is to star in the director’s new work on the Troubles written by Northern Irish playwright Ruth Davenport (Lucianne McEvoy) but she’s running late and the conversation is getting weird.
Jay, dressed in cowboy boots, tight black jeans and a black shirt, is a stereotypical macho Hollywood brute. He protests that he’s a progressive liberal feminist but his topic of conversation betrays this as it falls into misogynist territory, which is absolutely diabolical and a tad shocking.
Jay’s pseudo-intellectualism and absurd reasoning for the topic of conversation is played for laughs along with Leigh’s discomfort as the buttoned-up director who doesn’t want to upset the star of his play. But Leigh isn’t much better than Jay: he enables his star’s bad behavior despite his discomfort due to Jay’s celebrity status. The mood changes when the sharp Ruth arrives. She and Jay initially fawn over each other. Jay says hers is the best script he’s read in 10 years – even though he completely misunderstands it – he’s even sent it to Tarantino who loves it and promises to introduce the pair. Leigh’s the only one not laughing, and after Jay leaves the room, the director fills Ruth in on their previous conversation. When the actor returns, Ulster American descends into comic, almost farcical, mayhem.
An absolutely on-point black comedy about the shocking behavior of men in power in Hollywood and the theatre, Ulster American is must-see satire.
Ulster American was performed at Dunstan Playhouse on Wednesday, March 13
Until Sunday, March 17