A couple of trashy reality-show rejects in a bar shouting at each other about who’s been knocked up are more likely to inspire you to keep as much distance as possible than empathise with them. It’s a similar feeling to watching this production of Savage in Limbo, where the play attempts to endear us to a bunch of barflies via the twin avenues of tragedy and comedy, both of which struggle to hit their marks.
Written by Doubt author John Patrick Shanley, Limbo is set in a somewhat dilapidated Bronx bar in the 80′s. The four regulars and the barman, all aged thirty-two, spend the play butting heads in an attempt to improve their tedious and hollow lives. Denise Savage is a virgin who tries to woo the testosterone-fuelled Tony away from his girlfriend Linda, while Linda has decided that after having three illegitimate children to various lovers it’s time for her settle down, ideally with Tony. Tony isn’t interested in either prospect, however, as he’s decided that he’s only keen on unattractive women. Rounding out the cast are the taciturn bartender Murk, who attempts to shield his naive and mentally unstable sort-of girlfriend April from the affairs of the other characters.
These dramas are generally communicated either by the characters screaming at each other or by making equally histrionic declarations about how their lives aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, with Denise in particular making regular detours into self-loathing. It would have been easier to care about these characters and their two-fifths-life-crises if they were portrayed with any hint of nuance, but even the potentially comedic lines are spoken with too much venom and too little grasp of irony to come off effectively.
In fairness, this is both the debut production from director Michael Pratt and by this troupe, dubbed the Planktonic Players, so a certain lack of maturity can be forgiven. It’s well blocked for such restrictive staging, and the room above the Camden Eye pub is an apt venue, where the 8.50pm start immerses the audience into the atmosphere of a late-night bar.
The one real highlight of the production is Melissa Palleschi as April, probably due at least in part to her character acting as an innocent and cheerful respite from the melodramas of the others. Her somewhat unhinged tangents, as when she gleefully describes the death of her mother by four Brandy Alexanders, and her temporary delusion that it’s suddenly become Christmas, provide moments of genuine humour, though it’s still hard to recommend being shouted at in a small room for 75 minutes.
Performed at the Camden Eye pub until the 26th August.