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Virgins & Cowboys

"confidently performed and delivered"

Morgan Rose's black comedy ends with deliberate anticlimax. So ... how was it for you?

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Virgins & Cowboys

Date: 5 Dec 2017

The title is redolent of a noughties Hollywood comedy pitch and at first the set-up (slacker guy on a mission to deflower two virgins) promises to follow suit.

But from that point on, Morgan Rose’s black comedy is markedly original stuff, demonstrating a reluctance to conform to conventional story arcs and certainties.

Via the Internet somehow, Subway sandwich artist Sam (Kieran Law) has the opportunity to relieve two women of their maidenhead. The younger is Lane (Penny Harpham), a nervy 19-year-old student with a long list of words she viscerally objects to (“spoodge”, “penis”, “cum”, “pussy” – unless referring to a cat). The other is Steph (Katrina Cornwall), 29, a businesswoman and fitness fanatic.

Unsure how to actually go about it, Sam draws support from friends Dale (George Lingard) and Kieren (James Deeth) but it comes riddled with competitive feeling. It’s not long before this self-styled quest turns sour.

It’s a very funny play at times though Rose’s assessment of male fitness for relationships with women (and men for that matter) is never less than damning. Immaturity is an issue, of course, which Rose encapsulates in a spectrum of male attitudes and behaviour. More striking is the sense of entitlement infecting just about every interaction.

First produced in Melbourne in 2015, director Dave Sleswick’s revival is confidently performed and delivered. Sporting a Sam Elliott handlebar moustache, Law is compelling as the pathetic Sam. Harpham is frequently hilarious and a touch dangerous with it. Deeth’s understatement pays dividends.

Virgins & Cowboys has no interval though there is a two-act structure. After a kitchen table game of “orgasm” goes awry (Sam can’t manage the hands-free rule), and Lane declares it’s time to burn everything down, designer Yvette Turnbull’s colourful arrangement of floor coverings is rolled away and the stage becomes a smoky void.

For the last half-hour of the play, the mood turns introspective (over woozy loops of country music arranged by sound designer Liam Barton) and the audience finds itself drawn into a downward spiralling anticlimax.

Was it just me or do Sam’s final moments recall those of The Incredible Shrinking Man?

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