Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks by Richard Alfieri. Sydney's Ensemble Theatre at The Playhouse, CanberraTheatre Centre, directed by Sandra Bates, starring Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney. April 5 – 9, 2006, 8pm. Bookings: www.canberratheatre.org.au or Canberra Ticketing 6275 2700
With each dance lesson, widowed Lily Harrison buys more than she bargained for. Dance teacher Michael Minetti gives more than his due. Both are outspoken in this often very funny play, yet both hide much that can only be revealed when each learns to recognise honestly the other's situation. Their conflict is resolved in sad acceptance of their fates at last.
What might have been a too well-made play becomes a delight to watch as Hayes and McKenney bounce sparks and laughter off each other. Will you, won't you, will you, won't you take me to the dance - despite their mood swings, and phoned interruptions from Ida downstairs, they dance superbly in every lesson. As Minetti teaches the swing, the tango and Viennese waltz he begins to realise that old Mrs Harrison knows not only these but the foxtrot and the cha-cha as well as he does. And it takes her very little practice to find her feet in the twist and other "contemporary" dances, as she informs him that the Beach Boys split up at least 20 years ago.
As each exposes more of their life to the other, we see both the humour and the dreadful sides of their experiences. If there is a criticism of the play, it is that Alfieri uses his characters to make a point about too many issues, but Bates' tight directing and the actors' skills in raising and lowering the emotional temperature bring the play to life. The audience on Wednesday had no doubt that the result is thoroughly enjoyable on stage, while the issues are opened up for serious consideration.
Six Dance Lessons is here until Sunday, but if you miss it you can pick it up at the Theatre Royal in Sydney April 12 - 16.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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