Luna Gale

Luna Gale
By Rebecca Gilman. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Susanna Dowling. 7 September – 13 October 2018

Luna Gale is the impressive name of the baby brought to an Iowan hospital by her messed-up teenaged parents. High on crystal meth, the mother bounces off the walls trying to summon help while the father sits in slumped, comatose silence. Enter the weary social worker with her forms and lists to begin her 91st entry in the desperately underfunded world of child protection services. 

This is the impressive starting point to Rebecca Gilman’s excellent play, another recent winner from America that the Ensemble seems to claim first dibs on presenting to Australian audiences. And the actors rise to the challenge: Lucy Heffernan and Jacob Warner show their skills as Luna’s youthful parents, Karlie and Peter, while Georgie Parker is perfect as Caroline, the social worker, outwardly objective yet ruled by a private passion only occasionally revealed.

The problem is religion. Karlie’s mother Cindy (Michelle Doake) is an evangelical (or ‘crazy Christian’ in Caroline’s terms) and, in league with Pastor Jay (David Whitney), she demands to take full custody of poor little Luna. It’s rare to have such Trumpian forces nakedly displayed on stage and the scenes with the pastor demonstrate the real dangers of religious passion. It doesn’t help that Caroline hears ‘personal trainer’ when Cindy refers to her ‘personal saviour’.

Adding to Caroline’s burdens is her younger boss Cliff (Scott Sheridan), always looking for the easy, bureaucratic way out and tending towards the ‘crazies’ in his personal outlook. And then there’s Lourdes (Ebony Vagulans), just turned 18 and at last out of Caroline’s steely, social worker care.

All this is marvellously directed by Susanna Dowling and I found myself constantly pushed this way and that, though I could have wished for a more complex setting than the one provided (by Simone Romaniuk). The scene changes are many and the tiny changes to the set – sometimes with the entire cast on hand as prop bearers — seem minor. Fortunately, they swiftly get on with the next excellent scene.

Frank Hatherley

Photographer: Phil Erbacher

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.