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March 8, 2004 | by  | in Theatre |
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There’s got to be something to be said for a play that can name one of its central characters “Mayor Blowensuck” and still maintain a semblance of credibility.
Maintain credibility, that is, until intermission.

For the first 70 minutes of its run, Auditor!! is an entertaining comedy. Not quite farce, not quite physical comedy, Downie’s snappy script, a 1980’s comedy of errors about a corrupt small-town council who believe they are in the presence of an incognito auditor, is well handled by Sutherland and, particularly, his excellent ensemble cast of up-and-coming Wellington actors. The only weak link, here, is the the Mayor’s daughter. Intended to be one role, Sutherland extends it into four (“Maria, Maria, Maria and Maria”). The divided lines and – frustratingly – the actresses’ inability to speak in unison for those shared grates from early on in the piece.

Nonetheless, the first half has all of the humor and vitality of a Tom Stoppard piece, and intermission saw an expectant crowd enter the Studio 77 foyer on opening night. Unfortunately, Auditor!!’s second half fails to live up to the promise of the first. The farcical scenes, so well timed in the opening, drag on for too long and lose their punch, particularly a sequence in which each member of the council visits the supposed auditor, bribing him with money and, literally, the shirts off their backs. Worse, the penultimate half hour sees the play descend into something resembling surrealist drama, involving superfluous and distracting use of video technology. Finally, the play attempts to return to its roots as the characters re-assemble for an expected wedding, but this is really unnecessary. The natural resolution – the arrival of the real auditor – is unable to realize its comic potential, partly because, in the final minute, it appears far too late, and partly because the incongruous preceding sequence has cast a dramatic shadow over the plot.

At 3(!) hours, 90 minutes longer than scheduled, Auditor!! runs way too long and fails to live up to its comic potential. Despite an energetic and extremely talented young cast, working generously as an ensemble, a versatile set in a great theatre space and polished technical effects, script and direction conspire to make Auditor!! a real disappointment.

By John Downie
Directed by James Sutherland
Studio 77 until March 13th

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