This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
An essential facet of successful family dramas is the presence of believable relationships. One needs to comprehend the history of a couple’s marriage in their interaction, feel the depth of bitterness in the arguments of two sisters, and sense the unspoken emotion between father and son-in-law. Sadly, with Rants, Bantz and Comas, Joshua Petrini’s short play about a rift-ridden family thrown together by tragedy, the few convincing relationships and commendable performances are lost in an all-too-contrived plot.
Amber Sheridan and Melissa Campbell play Diane and Denise, two estranged sisters who are thrown together at their father’s hospital bed, following his involvement in a serious car accident. Weary mother of Katie (Sophie Hodgson) and suspicious wife to Kev (John Fairless), Diane has no time for the pretensions of her sister, who is herself burdened by an inept but well-meaning husband (Henry Inman). Old wounds reopen and arguments flare up as the family attempts to find their feet in the face of calamity.
Sheridan is adept as Diane; her transitions between fierce aggression and simpering affection are at times a little sudden, but her derisive attitude towards Denise is thoroughly believable. Fairless is similarly competent. His interaction with Sheridan, although stilted at times, is largely compelling and one is dimly aware of an emotional history. The same cannot be said of Inman and Campbell, whose relationship seems altogether artificial, partly due to a lack of intimacy.
The piece contains a modicum of humour, mostly drawn from the male characters’ anxiety to avoid conflict. Writer/director Petrini makes an entertaining appearance as a bungling trainee nurse and a brief discussion between Kev and Keith on the subject of their frustrated libido is a memorable highlight – ‘Sex life of a nun, balls like a turkey’s neck’.
For the most part, Petrini shuns humour in an attempt to confront “deeper issues”. Drug addiction, infidelity and class all receive attention, but it rarely amounts to more than a brief nod. When coupled with some regrettably clunky dialogue, this lack of focus ensures the audience is left uncomfortably unsure of the play’s intentions.
Ultimately, Rants, Bantz and Comas suffers most from the artificiality of its plot. The conflicts and reconciliations that pepper the play feel frustratingly forced. Aside from that between Sheridan and Fairless, the majority of the piece’s relationships leave a similar impression.