A married 1920s couple – high-society types – drink cocktails and engage in battling comic banter, occasionally launching into songs. But who and where they really are becomes less and less certain as this two-actor play evolves. Performed by one man and one woman. Approximate running time: one hour and ten minutes.
The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2010
CIT Theater, Adelaide Fringe Festival, 2012
Renegade Theatre Experiment, San Jose, California, 2013
Imperial Fizz is published by Josef Weinberger, Ltd, London. It may be purchased here.
In German-language markets, the play is handled by Per Lauke of Per Lauke Verlag, Hamburg.
Tel.: 0049 (0) 40 – 300 66 790
Fax.: 0049 (0) 40 – 300 66 789
As the new Asian superpowers move to the centre of the global stage, thoughtful Americans are beginning to look again at the great American Century through which we have just lived, and at the meanings of its power and glory, arrogance and style. And there is no American writer more thoughtful – in an explosive and surreally comic kind of way – than Brian Parks, the New-York-based creator of Americana Absurdum and other Fringe classics. His latest play is set in some post-death limbo, where a gilded couple from a decade in which rich Americans defined global style and elegance – say the 1930’s, or the early 1950’s – are bantering furiously, as they prepare to go out for an evening, about the abuses of power, and of other people, that define their past, and haunt their strange, repetitive present.
Like a cross between Sartre and Noel Coward, their quick-fire dialogue pings around the tiny space of the Wildman Room, often obscuring its brilliant poetic content with excessive lashings of style; Sophie Fletcher’s production – featuring a tense-looking David Calvitto, and a gorgeously-gowned Issy van Randwyck — is far too nervy and hyperactive to flatter a script well able to speak for itself. At its crucial moments, though, Imperial Fizz generates a strange, eerie power. It captures both the high elegance and the deep vulgarity of wealthy American culture at its height; and through the unlikely medium of the elaborate cocktail, mixed and served again and again as the drama plays out, it toys with the imagery of the cultural achievement and grandeur we lose when such a dominant culture crumbles, even if it richly deserves to do so. THE SCOTSMAN
Like the spirit of Oscar Wilde (all barbed wit and intricate language) filtered through a dark Lovecraftian sensibility, Imperial Fizz adds an extra ingredient to a classic recipe to delicious effect.
Sophie Fletcher directs American Brian Parks’ seemingly light-hearted marital comedy in which a constantly sozzled couple bicker their way through glass after glass of alcoholic concoctions. Issy van Randwyck and David Calvitto deserve an endurance medal for getting their mouths around such lightning fast feats of verbal dexterity, every line hewn from the vastness of the English language with a scalpel’s precision.
Yet this glossy facade, which on its own is rich enough to comprise a whole (but very different) play is the lacquered screen that disguises the real truth. There are inklings that things are not quite right: a shabbiness to the costumes, intrusive static on the wireless. Where at first the couple seem comfortable with their pattern of jibes and jests an element of fear creeps in, jocularity falters and anxious, angry attacks replace playful rehearsed debates. As we learn of an upcoming event the couple expects with trepidation the tone slides from frothy to sinister. The dialogue that once skipped along seems to be trying to outrun their fate, to force comfort with the repetition of the familiar (and a few stiff drinks).
It’s a heady experience, a runaway train of words where to drop attention for a line is to miss much. For all the tension, the act of watching is immensely enjoyable rather than fraught. Any social commentary about class or sexual politics is there if you squint, but entertainment is the overriding flavour. Like a well-made cocktail, the constituent elements are indiscernible and the overall effect on the palate delightful. THE LIST
The dialogue is classic 1920s banter and good-natured, with subtle wit, puns and double entendres garnishing every line. David Calvitto and Beth Fitzgerald delivered the script brilliantly with only a few stumbles that did not detract from their rapport. The two sparkled and effervesced, and maintained their characters throughout the play. Calvitto played the good-natured, doting husband with a penchant for “chemistry,” defining words, and the admirable skill of deflecting insults with a laugh and cutting remark flung back. Fitzgerald was the equally spirited, but fiery wife, who was vulnerable at the best of times but maintained her facetiousness and pride.
…This play showcased the best and worst of the 1920s—the performers took us through the glitz and glamour of high-society, as well as the darkness of their own lives. The dialogue was fast-paced, but easy to keep up with, and the dark elements avoided overshadowing the mood with wit and composure. The play allowed the audience to make their own deductions without obvious signs, and this had a greater impact. It was a superb show with humour as the base, a dash of whimsy and a splash of glamour all shaken up, and garnished with a cherry. ADELAIDE FRINGE REVIEW
Image credit: Renegade Theatre Experiment