Blue Box, M Space, Msida
A good comedy with a hint of pathos is just what Masquerade needed to usher in their 20th season and celebrate a special birthday at Blue Box with David K. Barnes’s Birthday Suit.
His script is sharp, witty and has just the right balance between mild slapstick gags and crisply timed one-liners which had the audience shaking with laughter. The premise was simple enough – Richard (Malcolm Galea) throws a birthday party to celebrate his 40th in style with his colleagues at his Canary Wharf apartment but nobody turns up except for new team member Diane (Tina Rizzo).
She is eager to fit in, network and help her boyfriend Nick (Joe Azzopardi) get a leg up at her accountancy firm, where she has grand plans for them.
The only other person who does come to the party is Valerie – Richard’s estranged wife, with whom he still insists he is in a loving relationship.
Valerie (Larissa Bonaci) has other ideas in mind and her shared past with Nick creates the perfect recipe for ribald revenge.
The play pits four very different characters and personalities against each other. Although Galea’s brilliantly interpreted quintessential Englishman Richard with his reserve and stiff-upper lip, would be loathe to admit that his wife despises him and that he is in any way upset by any of the events that occur.
Galea fit into his role with effortless, almost Monty-Pythonesque ease; muddling his way through a very awkward evening as a completely oblivious host, which in itself incites the necessary pity to contrast with the hilarity of his situation.
Rizzo gives a perfect rendition of the manic Diane; an overly paranoid, slightly neurotic Type A over-achiever. Azzopardi’s excellent Nick contrasts all the more with her because of his laid-back nature, which Diane secretly hates and has been trying to modify for years by trying to get him to improve his situation and taking accountancy exams. Nick’s English literature degree is referred to and poked fun at in regular intervals throughout the play.
Azzopardi’s deadpan, spot-on timing complement Galea’s as the two very different but equally reluctant male characters contrast with the much more forthright and certainly motivated female characters.
Bonaci gives a feisty performance as Valerie; a sarcastic, flirtatious young woman who is tired of being married to a jellyfish. Her frustration with Richard’s excessive placidity reaches a peak when even her attempts at making him jealous while getting her own back on Diane, come to nothing.
Birthday Suit is a cleverly constructed play because it relies on the humour that we find in everyday awkwardness. It is the discomfort of social situations which we’d much rather not be a part of that makes it so incredibly funny and relatable.
Director Anthony Bezzina has managed to steer his well-chosen cast well with sharp blocking and heavy reliance on their own dynamics and comic timing. This is a comedy that is effortlessly funny and deserves to be seen and enjoyed.
Birthday Suit is being staged at M Space in Msida tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm. For tickets, visit www.masquerademalta.com.