Reviewed – 3rd August 2019
“Insanity is right at the heels of the characters, and there’s a captivating sense of having no idea what will happen next”
It’s monsoon season in Phoenix, Arizona. Danny’s recent divorce has landed him in a sad flat with a view of a strip club’s flashing neon sign. During the day he works as tech support in a call centre. At night he drives an Uber to make ends meet. He doesn’t sleep.
Julia kept the house and the kid in the divorce, but she has her own problems. As a struggling makeup artist, it’s not easy to support a four-year-old and an Adderall addiction. Not to mention the giant bird she keeps seeing in the backyard. As the rain increases, Danny and Julia slide further toward madness.
Lizzie Vieh’s thriller-comedy is a rich, compelling, outrageous look at two people pushed past their limits. Vieh has a delightfully wicked sense of humour. She never loses sight of the comedy even as the story descends into the darkest places. Director Kristin McCarthy Parker, along with the design team (You-Shin Chen, Sarah Johnston, and Emma Wilk), has crafted an eerie, strange, enticing tension that spirals to a frenzied pitch. Insanity is right at the heels of the characters, and there’s a captivating sense of having no idea what will happen next.
The play opens on Danny (Richard Thieriot). With nuance and wonderful comedic timing, Thieriot pulls us into Danny’s world as he struggles to cope in the aftermath of the divorce. Vieh’s monologue is frequently very funny (Danny’s attempt to buy his daughter a pet is one of the best), while also touching and insightful about how difficult it is to make human connections.
For anyone who feels frustrated hearing men talk at length about having been wronged by a woman, with no voice given to the woman in question, Vieh has your back. About halfway through the show Thieriot exits. Therese Plaehn (Julia) enters, and we get her side of the story. The Julia we’ve heard about for the first half of the show transforms from an off-stage, shallow concept (villainous ex-wife), to a three-dimensional, vibrant character in her own right. Plaehn is refreshing, vicious, and devastating as the pill-popping beauty vlogger Julia. Her tutorial videos are hilarious.
Despite a slightly awkward set change between the two acts, the switch in perspective is an excellent choice that’s hugely effective. In addition to giving us a fuller, richer version of the story, it ensures the time we spend with either character never feels long. Vieh has masterfully created two wholly distinct, vivid monologues for two strong, deeply flawed characters. They complement each other perfectly.
Monsoon Season is a wild, unexpected, sixty-minute whirlwind that will leave you buzzing from the ride. Add it to your Edinburgh Fringe list and you won’t be disappointed. This one’s a gem.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019