Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Ex-con Jackie says it with flowers when he’s reunited with his addict girlfriend Veronica at the start of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ bleakly funny 2011 play. That’s about as sweet as it gets, however, in Andy Arnold’s new production of a piece seen here for the first time in the UK outside London. When Jackie spies a stranger’s hat amongst the debris of Veronica’s apartment, any hopes of a loving reunion are turned upside down as he lets off steam, first to his seemingly squeaky-clean AA sponsor Ralph D and his wife Victoria, then to Cousin Julio, who gives him some healthy if funny-tasting food for thought.
What follows over the next 100 minutes of this co-production between the Tron and the Cardiff-based Sherman Theatre is a series of potty-mouthed rapid-fire exchanges, with Jackie falling off the wagon en route to discovering some painful home-truths. This makes for a series of street-smart verbal riffs soaked in downbeat New York gallows humour which Arnold’s cast of five go at with a ferocity that makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping on a series of increasingly explosive domestic spats.
As Jackie, Francois Pandolfo is both wiry and wired, a taut bundle of nerves ready to pounce on the twisted logic of Jermaine Dominique’s Ralph D. If both female characters are collateral damage in a man’s world, both Alexandria Riley as Veronica and Renee Williams as Victoria lend them a sense of brittle vulnerability. It’s left to Kyle Lima as Cousin Julio to provide light relief and deadpan wisdom. With Kenny Miller’s multi-layered set bathed in purple neon, as Jackie climbs each tier, things may get increasingly messy down below, but it’s as if he’s ascending to increasingly higher moral ground.
The Herald, March 9th 2018