Ruben Guthrie Review - An Alcoholic's Lament

Playwright Brendan Cowell has crafted the story of RUBEN GUTHRIE, a complex character who typifies a massive problem in Australia – alcoholism. The Australian Theatre Company (ATC) has chosen the Cowell play as one of its two Los Angeles theater productions this year. Director Peter Blackburn describes Ruben as “someone you’ll know…he’s the guy whose life has been a nonstop party…he’s the Golden Boy, the gifted child, the impossible charismatic whose charm is all the more disarming because, when it’s directed your way, few can resist.”

Nathan Sapsford as Ruben Guthrie - Photo by Suzanne Strong

Ruben has a problem, and it’s not what you expect. He’s been a heavy-drinking, typically Australian guy who seems to have made liquor work for him. He’s got a great job which pays very well and gives him the latitude to express his creativity,  a multitude of heavy-drinking friends (with some extending that addiction to other things), and a beautiful and talented girlfriend. In fact, Ruben believes that not drinking is un-Australian. He considers blackouts “a gift from God” because they allow people to forget embarrassing situations. Then the ceiling crashes down on him when his girlfriend tells him that she can no longer deal with his alcohol-induced craziness and leaves. Ruben’s current problem? He decides that it’s time to go dry. Suddenly, most of his friends evaporate. He quits his job because his boss feels that he is no longer creative without alcohol. He sends his best friend packing because the temptation to use is just too great. Then he teams up with a former crackhead who becomes his sponsor and his lover. His relationships with his mother and father become more and more strained as they try to entice him back to liquor.

Nick Hardcastle, Sasha Yegorova, David Ross Paterson, Nathan Sapsford, Vivienne Powell, Olivia Simone, Shane Connor - Photo by Adrian Wlodarczyck

What to do and where to go? RUBEN GUTHRIE studies a man whose life is spiraling out of control. No matter where he turns, things go sour. He can’t seem to pull himself out of the tragedy of his existence. Neither can he reinvent past relationships and make them meaningful. Nathan Sapsford stars as the confused and unhappy RUBEN GUTHRIE. Olivia Simone (Virginia) and Sasha Yegorova (Zoya) are his love interests, while his parents are portrayed by Vivienne Powell (Susan) and David Ross Paterson (Peter). His best friend Damien (Nick Hardcastle) and his mentor Ray (Shane Connor) prove to be meaty roles.

Nathan Sapsford and Sasha Yegorova - Photo by Suzanne Strong

Skilled director Peter Blackburn explores the intricacies and complexities of a man who may be his own worst enemy. The creative production team includes John Iacovelli (scenic design), Jared Sayeg (lighting), Cricket Myers (sound), and Kate Bergh (costumes). Of particular interest in this play is the question of Australian identity. If in fact alcoholism is intrinsically associated with Ruben’s self-concept, is there anything that can take the place of drinking? RUBEN GUTHRIE is an interesting study about staying sober, enabling, and temptation. Although the basic premise is tragic, playwright Cowell manages to sandwich in some very funny situations which will amuse the audience.

David Ross Paterson and Nathan Sapsford - Photo by Suzanne Strong

RUBEN GUTHRIE runs through July 2, 2016, with performances at 8 PM Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4 PM and 8 PM Saturdays, and 3 PM and 7 PM Sundays. The Australian Theatre Company is performing at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets cost $34.99 for one ATC show and $50 for both ATC shows. For information and reservations, call 323-960-4443 or go online at www.AustralianTheaterCompany.com.

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