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Sonia Esgueira indulges in a bit of woe is me in her latest serio-comedy offering, Love & Prozac.
On the intimate little stage of the Alexander Theatre she plays a woman in search of love, plus various characters she meets in said search.
Her character is an extension of the same one she has been playing since she finished the successful Porra plays.
Last year she did So You Think You Can Love – which gave us the pratfalls of speed dating, several characters (all played by herself) and then took us through how she fell for and stalked her ideal man and then ran off to an ashram in India in an attempt to find herself.
Now, with Love & Prozac we still get some of the speed dating, less of the ashram and more of the craziness that followed her return to South Africa only to be faced with her younger sister’s nuptials.
When working on So You Think You Can Love she spoke about how that particular show went through various versions until she decided to play herself instead of a pretend character, at which point that play rapidly took shape.
This new show then is an extension of that same idea.
As usual Esgueira’s characterisation is spot on – she effortlessly slips from kugel to sleazy divorcee to no-nonsense Indian guru – and addressing the audience directly as if simply telling you this story over a cup of coffee, draws you in.
If you saw So You Think You Can Love, this is familiar territory, but if you are unfamiliar with Esgueira’s work, this will be funny.
The two slightly tipsy women giggling behind me throughout the show certainly had the right idea – they kept on whispering to each other about how they knew people exactly like that.
Love & Prozac is a wryly honest account of Esgueira’s dating pitfalls and everyone will find something to empathise with – from the well-meaning, but totally overbearing mother to the well-meaning but totally self-obsessed friend.
Director John Trengove’s function seems to be to edit and tighten because it is sharply paced and keeps moving, but script-wise, this is all Esgueira and her personal demons.
By the time she has reached the point where she’s cackling “the horror, the horror” to a group of children at a wedding, she’s about as far from her ideal self as she’s going to be.
Her search for love has led her to Prozac because the pressure to conform to the ideal of “find love, get married and live happily ever after” is messing with her head. Or at least, that’s one way to read it.
Or it could be the need for the drugs to even out her responses was always there.
Whatever way you look at it, the increasingly desperate tone is becoming shrill, but is leavened somewhat by the self-deprecating way Esgueira pricks her own self-important bubble.
Concentrating less on her Portuguese heritage and more on the overly huge standards we all set ourselves in the search for love Esgueira’s latest work is another step in the search for the perfect vehicle for her sharp comedic skills.
A luta continua.