Originally published on The Public Reviews
The Cup Theatre Company
Theatre Upstairs, Eden Quay, Dublin
A Lesson in When to Quit could have done well to have learned the lesson in its title. This show, written by Teri Fitzgerald and directed by Philip Doherty, began promisingly, but soon revealed that its only redeeming feature was that it was short. Billed as a comic, musical farce it opened with classic humour and gregarious gumption, however they fail to sustain this beyond the first quarter of the show.
Firstly, as a musical, the show lacked skill in composition and performance of songs, with many of them falling flat, losing timing and straying out of tune. This appeared to be partly down to poor writing, with the performers having to battle the timing of the song to fit the lyrics to the tune. Compounding this issue, the actors’ attempts to maintain their accents and vocal characterisation often took precedence over precision in performance of the musical numbers.
Also failing in creativity and skill was the lighting design by Shane McGill which returned regularly to an overwhelming red wash of the stage at every opportunity. The first time it was used, when the character of Dick Headski reveals his bad side, it was effective but once it had been used to portray further bad guy moments, a romantic evening between the leads, night time, and the fall of democracy to communism…well, it lost more than a little of its effect.
This could however have been glossed over had the gusto and enthusiasm displayed by the actors in the opening scene been maintained in the same vein. However, the script quickly deteriorated into crass, base humour. With coarse jokes made about sensitive topics, the female characters placed into stripper roles, some questionable portrayals of various countries and cultures, and a number of tasteless scenes added which made some members of the audience visibly cringe and shake their heads. And I haven’t even touched on the portrayal of mental health issues and Judaism. As well as being crude and contrived, many of these moments were entirely unnecessary to the plot and had obviously been added for the sole purpose of racking up easy gags.
A Lesson in When to Quit took an idea that could easily have been a funny and endearing evening’s entertainment and turned it into a stream of crass attempts to garner a cheap laugh.