John Misto’s play, adeptly directed by Anna Crawford, explores the scenario of a night in the summer of 1962- watching the final rushes of ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’, Marilyn Monroe’s controversial death and a potential bankruptcy of not only the film studio but of a Government and FBI scandal. Now place some of the major stakeholders of that night, or their ‘agents’, in the same room, lock them in and then watch a little bit of fact mingled with a whole lot of fiction, like a Dan Brown novel, tickle the imagination of its audience. That’s what we have in ‘Dark Voyager’.
This is a fun play, to watch as well as perform, I would think. Not only do we get to see the rivalry and banter of old frenemies, Joan Crawford (Kate Raison) and Bette Davis (Jeanette Cronin), but we see the scathing wit of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Belinda Giblin), the seductive and sedated powers of Marilyn Monroe (Lizzie Mitchell) and Hopper’s man Friday, Skip (Eric Beecroft).
The play contains elements of farce, lots of comic and dramatic tension and some very witty dialogue. ‘Dark Voyager’ is pure entertainment. It requires nothing more of you than to sit back and let it tickle your funny bone. There’s plenty of quick fire repartee ala old school Hollywood (think more Noel Coward than Orlando Bloom/Justin Bieber) and Misto knows how to take the popular culture and gossip of the time and give it new life and intrigue.
There are plenty of great performances but Giblin and Raison most stood out for me in knowing the delicate balance of sledgehammer and subtlety. There is camaraderie on stage with the whole ensemble that allows everyone the chance to find their inner bitch and playfully throw it out there. Oh how I want to be at that party.
The art deco design of Anna Gardiner beautifully captures the superficial elegance of Hollywood and celebrity. Kudos also to vocal coach Nick Curnow for finding the nuances in voice and accent for each of our characters so we can embrace the imitation or likeness of each star and enter upon the fantasy and journey of the piece.
This play is a crowd pleaser. It’s easy to watch and promises not to hurt your brain with deeply-held concepts or political protest idealism. At the same time, it is not without substance and mocks the superficiality of its characters and knows how to play with conflict and tension.
There are much worse ways to spend an evening than with this play.