“Alfred is happy and Melinda his wife is happy. Eduardo is happy but Eva his girlfriend is not happy. This is how Robert Caisley’s slick four-hander opens, in the ideal setting of the Maskers’ intimate studio theatre.
The premise is a simple one (we wish!) – Eduardo and Alfred are old friends who go way back. Eduardo has invited Alfred and Melinda to dinner, with the purpose of introducing them to his new (and much younger) girlfriend Eva. Alfred and Melinda, despite having a teenage special needs daughter, are constantly upbeat about everything, always finding the positives in every aspect of their lives. Alfred and Eva meet unexpectedly at the start of the evening, and, in a tense opening exchange, Eva starts to question Alfred about his life, his marriage, his family, his career and his aspirations, but all the while responding with sarcastic quips and more piercing questions. Alfred maintains his positive stance throughout, though the signs, even this early in the play, are that that he might just be somewhat dissatisfied with his lot.
Eduardo finally arrives, keen to show off his new partner to his old friend, but Eva infuriatingly continues her questioning stance to both men – “I don’t trust happy people” she says, “they’re lying to themselves”. And this very much proves to be the case as the evening progresses; copious amounts of gin and wine are drunk, and gradually personalities start to be peeled away and home truths come messily to the surface. Even Melinda, devoted wife, mother to a sick daughter, and hitherto the epitome of happiness, realises that she needs more in her life and has started her own business to give her life more purpose. At the end of the play she is has decided to cut her hair short, as a symbolic rebellion against the style she has had for so many years.
The four actors keep us on the edge of our seats the whole evening. Jonathan Barney-Marmont’s finely-judged Alfred starts out as a seemingly lovable happy-go-lucky chap, rising above the various misfortunes that life has brought. By the end of the evening (and having been beaten up in the street in a somewhat bizarre sub-plot) his drunken, resentful tirade against his old friend Eduardo sees him become a very different character to the one we met at the outset.
As his hitherto happy wife, Maria Head imbued the character of Melinda with great sympathy, and we could see her fighting to stay positive in the face of all the home truths being exchanged.
Ian Wilson’s Eduardo is all smiles and good nature as he introduces his friends to his new partner, but ends the evening in sullen silence as the insults fly.
Marilyn White has the best of the evening as the maddeningly irritating Eva, questioning everything and everyone, but giving away very little, maintaining her self-control while all around are losing theirs. But is she happy?”