The Bench cuts to the core of humanity with a few simple strokes. It starts with a chance encounter: a mourner confronts a man who moved his bouquet. From this conflict, the couple find occasion to battle, and by doing so address the tensions and traumas holding them back.
Sandy recently lost Maggie and dedicated a bench to her memory which he regularly visits to leave flowers and polish her plaque. Joe is on a break from work, looking for somewhere quiet to find peace.
Comedian-turned-writer, Keir McAllister hyperbolically positions the strangers at each other’s throats, arguing semantics and besmirching each other’s characters as though offended by one another’s very existence. Nothing slides in the witty, fast paced dialogue. Remarks are taken at their worst and deployed later in counterattacks as though the two had been in a relationship for years.
The truculent duo are deceptively charming and easy to watch. In isolation, each scene serves as an intriguing character portrait with valuable insight into the human psyche. The chemistry between the actors makes for affecting moments throughout as each character comes to grips with their demons. This phenomenal acting compensates for plot development too hurried to be persuasive. However the well paced comic elements are particularly strong, clearly marked by McAllister’s background, making the show entertaining even as developments increasingly rely too much on monologue and exposition.
The Bench, Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, 6-26 Aug (not 20), 2.15pm