WRITER, DIRECTOR: Daniel Dercksen

CAST: Rowan Studti, Wojtek Lipinski, Andre Lombard

RATING: Three stars

VENUE: Fringe at the Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein

UNTIL: Friday

DANIEL Dercksen, scriptwriter, playwright, film critic, director, producer, and driving force behind the successful The Writing Studio in Cape Town, has brought his latest play, The Beauty of Incomplete Things, to the Joburg stage.

It depicts the intricate relationship of a newly formed liaison between David (Lipinski), an intellectual with taste, plus a Maria Callas worshipper, and Tommy (Studti), an attractive stud who is a masseur, married to Anne and has a son.

Over a weekend when the two of them escape to the former’s cabin in the woods, David’s ex-lover and still a good friend of his, Lawrence (Lombard), arrives unannounced and throws the proverbial spanner in the works.

Dercksen’s style of writing is as such very attractive. There is a very personal lyricism to be found. Unfortunately, it has its limitations if applied to a staged work. No one less than Tennessee Williams wrote about it: “Personal lyricism is the outcry of prisoner to prisoner from the cell in solitary where each is confined for the duration of his life.”

This play is a close-to-the-skin affair, with deeply embedded observations regarding love, fantasies, possessiveness, homoerotic sexuality, jealousy, loyalty, crippling self-deception, fragility, the power of words and a whole gamut of other detailed and often complicated elements used as tools to express the “human condition”.

The predominantly gay lingo in certain scenes is applied very effectively, while in others they sound clichéd. The dialogues and monologues don’t always ring true. Many of them are too studied.

When David initially speaks, a lot of it is so highfalutin that he does not break through to Tommy, the man he wants to seduce. When David goes on about Callas, Tommy’s reaction is “it’s old people’s music”. A conflicting aura and frustration hangs in the air.

Although Studti as Tommy is initially somewhat distanced and reserved, he is the one actor who succeeds – more than the others – in delving a bit deeper into his character and letting his own uncertainties surface.

Lombard, the eldest and most experienced actor of the three, gives a solid performance as the dominant, obviously self-serving and quite manipulative Lawrence who is the uninvited guest at David’s birthday celebration.

As far as the production goes, Dercksen entered the high-risk factor by directing his own play. He should have been the master who brings his own words into palpable action, but he does not succeed in the way a more experienced director could have done with the given text.

Often the scenes seemed stilted, the pauses between dialogues too long. Even with the knowledge that every word of his script in the writer’s eyes is precious, there should have been a couple of zesty scenes in this production.

The Beauty of Incomplete Things is nevertheless worth seeing for its best parts, its lingering moments where quality and craftsmanship is obvious.

But as a whole it still needs work – especially in its transformation between the page and the stage.