Theatre: American Song

We live in an interesting time. And American Song is an 80 minute monologue about one of the very real issues of our time, gun violence. Ironically opening just after the unfortunate LA mass killing incident, Red Stitch presents the Australian premiere of American Song by award winning Australian writer Joanna Murray Smith.

The play follows the life of Andy (Joes Petruzzi), a common American with a seemingly normal life who tells us his story emotionally as he builds a stone wall. He endearingly takes us on a nostalgic journey of his life – how he met his wife, their little romance, his father in law, moving to a new neighbourhood, having a baby and looking after their child while his wife completes a degree.

Incidentally thrown in is how he bought a gun after his wife was mugged in the new neighbourhood, and the gun is mentioned a few times. We move along the emotional and not uncommon journey of life as a parent, the struggles and joys of everyday life – moments when it seems worth it, like when the child says the best part of the day was the kiss you gave them on the forehead while tucking them into bed. The narrative continues, with challenges faced at work and in marriage, relationship deterioration and how the growing child deals with those issues amidst teenage.

All these little moments culminate in to one big movie style incident – just as Andy is about to give the biggest presentation of his life, he gets the most shocking news about his son Robbie.

The monologue by Murray Smith is a deep exploration of thoughts and the narration of incidents is a tool for analysis. Parenthood is one of the overarching themes – the impact one has on the life of their child, the joy of creating a child only to slowly lose them as they grow in to a teenager. How much impact does upbringing have on a teenager’s actions and how much is just rebellion? Is it faulty DNA, something no one can control but feeds into parental guilt? Together, Smith and Petruzzi guide us through these words and intricate ideas, brick by brick as the wall is built encouraging us to explore the darker corners of life.

I was completely taken by surprise, being so involved in the everydayness of the narration. Tackling an issue such as gun violence through one parent’s story is cleverly executed and deeply impactful. Joe Petruzzi endearingly and skilfully takes us through this internal and external journey. The small and large moments are appropriately delivered and one can feel for Andy, as he battles on, building the stone wall. The team work of Tom Healy’s direction and Peruzzi’s delivery shines through, as does the simplicity and effectiveness of the set design. The wall could well be the metaphor for Robbie – Andy’s own creation, a quiet observer but the threat of collapse is always present.

A special mention must be made of Bronwyn Pringle’s lighting. The shadows cast on the wall were almost like characters with their own minds, like the multiple inner demons one houses. They added a surreal depth to the imagery, and combined with the variation between darkness and light created a thought provoking mood.

The interesting time that we live in needs a lot more productions like American Song to provoke our inner thought mechanisms and equip us to deal with the world we create.



American Song runs until the 5th November, more details including ticketing information can be found here.

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