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Photo by Rupert Reid

Red Lines Productions presents, DOLORES, by Edward Allan Baker, at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, Cathedral and Dowling St, Woolloomooloo. 28 April – 9 May.

DOLORES (1986), is a one act play written by American, Edward Allan Baker. He says: “I write about people born to brick and asphalt, who don’t have bad days, they have bad years.” A ‘social realist’ then. And, based on this experience, in spades.

Sandra (Jannine Watson) in her working class home, in Providence, Rhode Island, is having her weekly sojourn, alone with her self to indulge her simple needs, while husband and children are visiting the in-laws. On this occasion, Dolores (Kate Box), one of her sisters, the entirely dysfunctional one, arrives with a black-eye and a desperate fear that her husband is on her trail for further violence. Sandra, resisting, at first, harbour towards Dolores, gives in, and together, they gradually reveal in their search for some understanding and succour to the concrete of their lives, a sibling respect and warmth that could be a source for change. Too late, unfortunately, for one of them, for the hard circumstances of their lives has overtaken one of them to an irretrievable social disaster. The contemporary social highlighted discussion, awareness, about violence towards women in our societal structures, is at the centre of this work.

This is a play of great intensity with all the packed detail of a world well known to the writer. Only 40 minutes long, one feels that one has had an immersive experience of character, narrative and emotion, by its end. An entirely vivid and satisfying time, despite its human suffering. On the set of ORPHANS (the third play I’ve seen on this one set, with, of course, some detail augmentations), Ms Watson and Box create two women, two sisters, with remarkable empathy. These two women, like the three men in ORPHANS, are roles to be prized by actors – and that Ms Watson and Box do so is the great gift of the night, and that they do that while telling a comprehensible story, is one up on the boys in the main time slot (when I saw it, early in the season).

Particularly, Ms Box, who creates a woman of shifting graduations of needs with consumate, passionate detail and ease. Voice, body, intelligence and emotional accessibility all serving this artist’s impulses to create Dolores. This is a performance that is verging on the edge of greatness. There was no Director to the production, and it is the element missing that may have lifted the production, performances, to a refined calibre of clarity, and further depths. If one has been in doubt to the potential of this artist, Ms Box, recall, amongst much else: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE BUSINESS, and see that she has been showing us IT for several years now, in striking kinetic examples on our stages – let alone the subtle influence of her presence in ABC Television’s RAKE, or the underestimated Aussie film, A LITTLE DEATH (2014) – the film has its problems, sure (editing of story lines?), BUT, come on, it has a sophistication beyond most of what we usually get from our Australian comedy film writers and actors.

DOLORES is a precious gem of a show. It plays at 9.45pm at night. But, also, has a Saturday matinee at 2pm and on Sundays at 7.30pm. If you love acting and the theatre, get yourself there. If you are up to it, catch both: ORPHANS (for the macho male hit) followed by DOLORES (for the dimensional female hit), add, a not too bad meal from the newly teamed chefs in the Old Fitz kitchen, and a beer, or whatever: for me, a vodka-tonic with lime, please. A good and satisfying night out and all in the one place. And as they might say in either of the worlds of these two plays: “F..k the rain problems off.”

The Old Fitz and Red Line Productions reaching out to the theatre going audience – you will get your bang for your hard earned bucks. You will feel that your precious time (and money) has been well spent.