Best Western

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Rich Hall’s second Fringe play, Best Western, is set in a motel in Montana.The title cleverly references the hotel chain and introduces the idea of what it means to be part of the West and its culture.

The characters are archetypes of American drama: Ed Kehoe (Kyle Fable), the aggressive Government man, responsible for building roads that destroy small communities and livelihoods, haunted by his inability to father a child; Early (Tim Williams) a granite-faced rancher quietly confronting his own mortality with an imminent operation, tying up the Loose Ends of a wrecked family life; his son Toby, (Tom Stade) rejecting the Marlboro County values to be a fiddler, his trashy young wife Wanda (Maria Golledge); Del, (Carol Cleveland) the desiccated woman-with-a- past who runs the hotel and her hugely pregnant couch-potato daughter, Ryvita (Dagmar Doring). There is also the ramrod-backed English lady Doctor Meacham (Karen Eva Clark) who has embraced her inner cowpoke, dressing from the Laura Ashley hoedown range.

The stories are condensed and intertwined. Toby is in conflict with his dad and his wife. She is trying to play happy families and reconcile the two stubborn men and replace her own estranged family with a new, equally estranged family. Del is in conflict with her TV obsessed daughter; Ryvita has narrowed down the father of her child down to a possible six contenders and Del thinks she should pretend that she was raped rather than broadcast what a casual lay she is. Mr Kehoe wants to adopt the unborn child in exchange for not giving Del away to the Government for fraudulently claiming too much compensation.

This is played for drama, but with some crackling lines throughout, mainly from Kehoe and the doctor. Every step of the way choices are made between tragedy and comedy. The play references popular culture, from Jerry Springer and Oprah Winfrey to Brokeback Mountain and TV soaps, while the some characters – Wanda and Ryvita – embrace their roles in life’s soap, whereas Toby is kicking against the hollow comfort of clichéd responses. There is a wealth of back story to each character

This a thoroughly enjoyable distillation of intense stories, without glib resolutions. There is fine comic acting, particularly from Kehoe and Ryvita, and an excellent, understated performance from Early. Thisis comparable to Eugene O’Neill and David Mamet, but with better gags.

Reviewed by: Julian Chambers

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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