Ordering Chaos: Review of pantsguys’ Mr Kolpert
German playwright, David Gieselmann’s Mr. Kolpert (2000) is a curious exploration of chaos, morality and the ennui inherent in our contemporary, ordered and controlled lives.
Set in a dingy apartment, Ralph and Sarah have invited around their friends, Edith and Bastian, for a couples night in, and, more importantly, to provide them with some entertainment. The mind games begin early on with Ralph announcing that they have murdered one of Sarah and Edith’s co-workers, Mr. Kolpert. At first this is treated as a joke, but as the evening progresses it becomes apparent that the deed has actually been committed. The stakes start to rise as Bastian takes a moral exception to what the pair has done, while Edith finds certain liberation in the act of taking a human life. Throw in a hapless pizza-delivery guy and the stage is set for chaos.
Kolpert’s humour is black, yet it grapples with a lot of weighty themes. Ralph is a chaotician by trade, which is the study of dynamic systems where minor changes to an initial state lead to wildly different results. In effect, it is the attempt to find order in a system that from the outside appears completely random. To a degree the play itself takes on this quality as it veers from one unlikely event to the next. This is overlaid with the idea of society as an unnatural construct. What is normal, what is right, what is wrong: everything is up for grabs. In his note, director Jimmy Dolton speaks of how the order and control that is imposed on our lives in contemporary society has the effect of dulling our senses. Mr. Kolpert suggests that this way of living will eventually force us to break out of these socially constructed bonds to find a new freedom and re-embrace life. The play does, however, leave us with the suggestion that no matter how outlandish our actions are, habituation and boredom will always set back in.
The piece has a strong, vibrant cast, who largely manage the work with gusto. Paige Gardiner was a standout as Edith Mole, the awkward doormat. Of all the actors, Gardiner was most comfortable in the space and most confident in her comedy. She radiated a detailed energy that almost stole the show. Her boorish husband Bastian Mole, was also played to great satisfaction by Garth Holcombe.
Both Claire Lovering and Tim Reuben rounded out the piece with a wonderful chemistry as the bored, murderous couple Sarah Kenner and Ralf Droht. Lovering layered her performance with sensual cheekiness whilst Reuben did his best to tackle a more conventional character. Edan Lacey was a great addition as The Pizza Man, lending a relaxed style to the fiercely ramped up story that unfolded. Tom Christophersen makes a brief but memorable appearance as the famed Mr Kolpert.
The piece was accompanied by a vibrant lighting design (Benjamin Brockman), which lent great flavour to the piece and a thoughtful set by Antoinette Barboutis. Whilst haze and bubbles are often a nice effect (harking back to a previous Dalton production – Cough) they were less effective the second time around. However, certain genius shined through during action sequences in which dark light was employed to give us something of a cinematic effect of time sped up.
Dealing so closely with chaos the script does at times feel a little jumbled, with characters’ reactions and turn of events seemingly coming out of left field. While this is undoubtedly a reflection of the theme being explored, it occasionally makes for jarred viewing. There is a point midway through the play where the action tappers off and the piece drifts listlessly for ten minutes or so. With this one exception aside however, the play certainly entertains throughout and there are plenty of laughs to be had in this strangely violent and darkly macabre piece.
Kolpert is playing in Studio 1 at The Wharf until the 16th of August. For more information see: http://www.pantsguys.com/mr-kolpert/