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Loose ends mean comedy suffers

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TO Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks 4©Ruphin Coudyzer

SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS
DIRECTOR: Greg Homann
CAST: José Domingos, Judy Ditchfield
VENUE: Sandton’s Auto and General Theatre on the Square
UNTIL: February 9
RATING: ***

 

With the Baby Boomers ageing, it’s a topic that is creeping into film and onto stage much more frequently. Those caring for and those living it, all know it’s not for sissies, with life’s curve balls perhaps most damaging and distressful at this fragile time of life.

Lily Harrison (Ditchfield) is lonely. The good thing about it is she’s doing something about it. She decides she needs dance lessons and wants them in the privacy of her home. Only in America. In fact, while the themes are universal, think The Odd Couple and you’re almost in the ball park.

It’s that kind of play. Playwright Richard Alfieri is writing about serious issues, but he’s doing it in hysterical fashion. He doesn’t want those dealing with the problem drowning in sorrow or those not yet there, confronted too harshly with something they yet have to face.

You know that with dance tutor Michael Minetti (Domingos) butting heads with his new client from their first encounter, there are going to be fireworks.

He has his own baggage with a mother who died of Alzheimer’s and bad choices in the relationship stakes. He’s gay, natch! He has to be as a dance instructor for the rapidly ageing in South Florida. She, of course can dance, the lessons are simply a ruse for companionship.

None of this needs a spoiler alert because the details of these two passing ships are flared from start to finish. It doesn’t come as any surprise when either of them tells their story.

It’s really all about the way it is told. With six dance lessons worked into the different meetings, that’s the structure of the play.

In-between it’s about the banter between the two lost souls as they are challenged by the other’s deter- mination to deal with their life. Because there’s not that much soul searching and the accent is on lines that hit their target, it’s all about the rhythm of the piece.

The play is lengthy, about two hours long, which means Domingos and Ditchfield have to know their steps – on and off the dance floor.

They do, but the banter still has to settle in, the nerves have to steady and the pace find a natural ease. It has to be snappy, but not run along too fast, almost like the perfect dance.

Once all of that happens, it will swing nicely.

It all rambles on for too long because to work it has to be sleek and sassy. The text could have done with a few deft cuts, the blackouts should be just that, and the repartee and silences sometimes lack the required sass which has this kind of play working all its magic.

It’s not about individual touches, it’s about all the parts adding to the power.

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