Mixed bag for Tricycle's glamorous Colby Sisters
The conflicting siblings in Adam Bock's ''The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania'' yielded conflicted feelings among the critics
Sometimes you really are taken by surprise. On the surface, not necessarily a bad place to be, this quick, smart new play by New York-based Canadian writer Adam Bock is superfluous to requirements… Trip Cullman's gorgeous and cannily cast production is presented as a Vanity Fair photo session... This match is much better staged than the one in Terrence McNally's Deuce on Broadway, with sound effects for bouncing balls and the kinetic arguments dovetailed with the play and conveyed with a shifting stage from left to right.
This premiere... is comparatively weak - aspiring to be a sassy crowd-pleaser, yet falling short… Bock does a decent job of capturing the vacuous nature of these women's social lives, in situations ranging from a chic gala to a bad-tempered tennis match. But the material is overfamiliar. It's reminiscent of TV shows such as Sex and the City and Gossip Girl, with the same emphasis on fashion, feuds and dysfunctional relationships. And at 75 minutes the play feels slight - like the first half of something much meatier.
Glamour is a quality we rarely associate with modern theatre. It positively oozes… out of this new 75-minute play... For all its style, it seems more like a New Yorker short story than a substantial play. Bock also seems torn between satire and sympathy in his attitude to the sisters as they move from a group portrait to a gala dinner and even a tennis court… one might assume that Bock is attacking these privileged siblings. But Bock also charts the tensions within the group… It would be a better play if there were a stronger back story and we learned more both about an ancestral family tragedy and how the sisters made it from Pittsburgh to Fifth Avenue.
What kind of inner life exists behind the perfectly groomed facade of the American society girl? The Canadian-born, US-based playwright Adam Bock explores this intriguing question with delicious gusto in his new drama … An act of desperation suggests the drama is about to move towards a deeper emotional expostion, but the Colby sisters prove to be surface all the way through - their near-impermeable social gloss brilliantly intimated by Richard Kent's set of brightly lit, oversized iPad-style screens … There is a tantalising hint of a heftier, darker play trapped within this airy confection - but heft isn't everything. Sometimes a brightly-coloured puff of candyfloss with an interestingly toxic aftertaste can be perfect in its way.
...frankly, I never felt - from start to finish - that I was gaining any real knowledge, intimacy or insights regarding the It girls in this so-called black comedy... Sure, we spend some time behind closed doors with five quarrelsome fashionistas who, we gather, have upmarket husbands and a remarried, rich daddy offstage. In terms of characterisation, however, this is a paper-thin group portrait... Isabella Calthorpe, as the amiable but glazed belle India, is meant to be in gutted, tearful breakdown. She looks as if she's merely going through the motions, though... Charlotte Parry, to her credit, makes the monstrously bossy and bitchy sister, Gemma, seem slightly more three-dimensional than a wicked witch.