The Finkelsteins Are Coming To Dinner: A satisfying feast

David Viviers, Andrew Laubscher and Megan Furniss.

David Viviers, Andrew Laubscher and Megan Furniss.

It may seem an odd realisation after over a decade of watching theatre, particularly on the fringe, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’m late to the party.

I’m usually watching theatre with a depressingly small audience.

I knew this, of course. Lack of audience for small, independent theatre is a permanent and relevant gripe, but it only hit home at the closing line of The Finkelsteins Are Coming To Dinner, which I had the absolute pleasure of watching at the Cape Town Fringe on Saturday night. (why it’s taken two days to sit down and write about it is a sad tale of broken internet connections, horrendous Cape Town traffic and irrational decision making for which I choose to blame the Mercury retrograde)

That last line, which so satisfyingly wrapped up Richard Kaplan’s superbly rounded text, was a rare succinct end note so assuredly delivered by Megan Furniss that I was suddenly conscious of the energy of the full house that had been feeding the almost flawless performance by her, Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers for the past hour.

It was a little epiphany the likes of which almost made me vow to be a bit kinder to actors bleeding before audiences of 10, seven or four (in one memorable case in Grahamstown, just myself and a fellow reviewer).

The Finkelsteins Are Coming To Dinner, with its finely wrought idiosyncratic text that retains an innervating sense of mystery even after its overt secret becomes clear, and consummate performance – although Furniss was a bit wooden in the beginning, but then she was boxed in with cushions – certainly deserves a full house.

It’s not a play that will necessarily keep you up at night thinking about life, art and the mysteries of being human, although if you’re prone to that you can probably find something in it to get the gears grinding. What it does do, besides humorously interrogating the parenting methods of Jewish mothers, is present homosexuality as normative. Which is refreshing, although it shouldn’t be.

Viviers is half-naked as usual (okay I’ve actually only seen him in the Maids) and fully naked as well, which detracts not a jot from his charm, and it’s great to see Laubscher in a role that requires more than spitting interjections at a fellow actor (okay, yes I know he does that very well nonethelsss). It’s also been a long while since I’ve seen Furniss, well cast as the Jewish matriarch, working with a text rather than making things up on the spot. Actually, it’s probably the first time, not that that is her fault.

What I’m trying to say is that all three of them were a joy to watch.

Director Adrian Collins needs to also be credited for that. Besides (presumably) cracking the whip, he had them using the stage and luxurious set (luxurious for fringe, that is) to full effect.

The set designer is not in the credits but thank you to whoever it is for attending to details. The paintings forming an integral part of the story are actually painted by someone with talent, with pleasing finishing touches such as used Windsor and Newton oil tubes at the easel. A sprinkle of genuine turps and linseed to perfume the venue would have been divine.

More kudos to Collins for not having Laubscher doing any actual painting. Mercifully he manages to cut past that issue with well-placed splicing. He had the pacing perfectly pitched and a number of Kaplan’s lines, delightfully dry, had me laughing along with the rest of the house who fed the trio on stage with an energy they bounced right back.

That is rare. Hence the little epiphany.

More full houses all around please, our theatre makers need love (and money).

The Finkelsteins Are Coming To Dinner are back at the Cape Town Fringe – where they’ve been nominated for a Fresh Award – on Thursday 6th until Saturday 8th October. Details and bookings here

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