To some people, “Atlantis” is a utopian city lost underneath a wall of water. For Lally Katz it’s a semi-autobiographical play about her mid-30s trip home to America as a newly-single girl. The results are like Bridget Jones played by Kathy Lette. With a panther thrown into the mix. Because you can.
Katz is no stranger to using some events from her personal life as inspiration for her work. Her award-winning play, Neighbourhood Watch was based on her actual Hungarian neighbour and friend. Her one-woman show, Stories I Want To Tell You In Person – which played at the Belvoir Theatre in 2014, among other venues – also covered some of the same ground as Atlantis. This show also covered Katz’s doomed romantic life as well as the New York psychic who declared that the playwright was cursed.
Amber McMahon does a fabulous job playing Lally. She is utterly charming in the role, which is good because she’s on stage for virtually the entire two hour show. She also narrates and acts in a play that travels through Sydney, New York, New Jersey, Miami, Las Vegas and Kansas. This play is a tad uneven at times and it is ambitious because it tackles a small swag of different themes including: climate change, romance, heartbreak, the weather and psychics, to name a few. The script is funny but you also get the sense that it might be biting off a little more than it could chew at times, especially at the end when things get super-surreal and strange. The personal nature of the content also means that it might only strike a chord with people who have found themselves in Lally’s shoes.
At 35 Katz had a major medical episode and was given some devastating news, to procreate straight away or realise that she may never become a mother. She was in a long-term relationship at the time and was in love with her soul mate. But the couple would break-up. Lally decided to travel to the US, her place of birth and what followed was a madcap adventure to cure curses while staying in a crusty Airbnb. She also had some fleeting romances, spent quality time with the old folks (her Jewish grandparents) and returned to her childhood home in a self-proclaimed “Smurf village.”
The ensemble do a fine job of juggling over 40 different characters. Matthew Whittet is an absolute sweetheart as Pop-op and Hazem Shammas is a hoot as a cowboy and a panther. Paula Arundell’s Electra is sassy and a little bit dangerous so it’s hardly surprising that she claims to have been a muse for Kanye West. Lucia Mastrantone’s psychic Bella is quite feisty and funny and such a typical shyster. The accents are all spot on.
The set is a colourful and quirky one that reflects the madcap nature of this adventure. Jonathon Oxlade’s design also includes some pieces that look like children’s building blocks and are perhaps a nod to Lally’s desire to have children. Throughout it all Lally is unerringly optimistic through what could have been quite a dark and lonely place post-breakup. She tackles things head-on with her wacky, self-deprecating sense of humour and naturally assumes that some things can be used as fodder for a future writing piece. The mood is also kept upbeat throughout thanks to tracks by The Vengaboys and Roxette, to name a few. The direction by Rosemary Myers is good and the overarching feeling is to keep things fun, at all costs.
Atlantis is a personal and chaotic show that covers a lot of ground where the main thing keeping it all together is Katz’s colourful adventures, zany imagination and keen sense of humour. The result is something that is a little self-indulgent at times but it’s also the most fun you could hope to have in the midst of a heartbreak. At the end of the day some people deal with a break-up by listening to The Cure but for Katz it was all bubble-gum, alcohol and eighties pop. It’s up to you which one’s your poison…
Atlantis is on at the Belvoir in Sydney until November 26th. For tickets and more details, head HERE.
The reviewer attended the performance on November 1st. Images provided and used with permission.