Park Theatre, 13th January 2017
Written for Time Out
Welcome to Gene Lacy’s General Store. It’s a world of muted brown, with faded plank walls, scruffy memorabilia and pickled beets. Lots of pickled beets. It’s not even Gene Lacy’s store anymore, since he became riddled with debt and had to sell the place to Lullaby. This is the store that time and America forgot. The only thing missing is the tumbleweed.
Unfortunately, that feeling of stagnation never leaves Simon David Eden’s latest play ‘The Albatross 3& Main’. This comedy about a trio of down-on-their-luck Americans – who invest their hopes in a dead but priceless golden eagle – is seriously laboured. Eden has his characters explain the play’s central premise not once, but twice. The golden eagle, we are told, is a coveted bird. It is a crucial part of most tribal ceremonies. The only catch is that it’s a federal offence to own one – so the eagle, that great American symbol, is denied to those that need it most.
Do you geddit? If you don’t, I can explain it again. It’s all a bit convoluted and, yet, other than the over-stuffed eagle, there’s little going on here. Spider (Charlie Allen, decked in leather) walks into Gene’s shop with said eagle, which needs stashing. Gene (Hamish Clark, drawn and cynical) wrings his hands a little and Lullaby (Andrew St Clair James), an ex-fighter now soft in the head, mumbles in the corner. When things get particularly ‘tense’, Lullaby recites from 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. It’s a particularly affected touch from Eden, whose writing is smart but occasionally showy.
David Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo’ – also set in a run-down store and involving three hopeless schemers – is an obvious comparison. But this buffalo lacks bite. Playwright Eden also directs and designs and, though the set is evocative, the direction is sloppy. The dialogue sags and the actors never feel settled. There are some good quips and nice physical gags – but few feathers are ruffled.