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Review: 7 Captiva Rd at Chapel Off Chapel

Review by Jessica Flynn

‘7 Captiva Rd’ from the Anthropecene Play Company by Andrea Ciannavei, directed by Cathy Hunt, felt like peering behind the curtain of your neighbour’s home. It is set in New England in 2004, as we learn about an Italian American family who come around to say their final goodbyes to their Grandmum, the matriarch of the family. The story starts with a small cast but more and more characters are introduced as the plot thickens and grows. You learn bits and pieces of their speckled lives until they become one cohesive story of familial chaos and love.

The audience is a detective, piecing together the many chasms brought onto their family. You get to hear both sides of every story and drama. At times it felt salacious, satisfying my penchant for gossip but it turns more serious over the course of the show as you learn the depth and trauma that lives behind the bickering. The play relies on the audience to listen intently to each conversation so this does mean that you need to be quite attentive throughout the show so you don’t get lost. Most actors spoke loudly and clearly enough, although Maureen could have been a bit louder for those in the back! This is however coming from someone who would love subtitles for real life so take it with a pinch of salt. The story is centered on an Italian American family so the accents help to draw you into the scenes. Sometimes a few Aussie accents slipped through which was at times distracting, but it was largely consistent throughout the play.

Mikhaela Ebony did a fantastic job at playing the complex character of Francine. You could physically feel the weight of the world on her as she navigated her complicated relationship with her parents who she hasn’t spoken to in years and her love for her grandmother as she cares for her in her final moments. I also loved Helen Doig as the pragmatic mum Olivia, who brought a cutting comedic nuance to each of her scenes. I particularly liked her relatable emotional plunge into a bowl of spaghetti in front of the television. The men of the show, played by Max Garcia Underwood, Sebastian Gunner and Tim Clarke, did a good job at playing goofy, lovable characters that surprise you with their terrible actions. I also want to shout out Lyndal Charteris as Grandmum, who I genuinely thought was a very life-like doll for most of the show.

The set design was fantastic. It was practical in the way it cleverly indicated the inside compared to the outside of the house yet immersive in the minute details left for the audience to peruse in between acts. My personal favourites were the Che Guevara cigarette pack holders scattered around the living room and the religious garb on display. Food was a significant motif to the play and I couldn’t believe there was a working kitchen on the set! Phenomenal achievement from Isabella Edwards. Food is often viewed as the glue of family life so it brought an interesting element to the play when characters would be fighting while making pancakes, but then giggling with siblings and cousins over the same pancakes the next scene! It did make the place smell like butter and vanilla though which made me extraordinarily jealous, so a small note to offer pancakes for the audience too!

Props were a very important tool in showing the audience the various emotional states of the actors and giving a very realistic look and feel to the play. I personally lost count of how many cigarettes were lit during the performance (although I think I got to 12 by the intermission)! The costumes from Jessamine Moffett further bolstered the realism and nostalgia of the play with classic 2000’s hits like layered tops and cargo shorts. It really felt like we were peering into someone’s day to day life. Chapel Off Chapel was a great venue choice for the show too. It felt intimate and the raised levelling of the seats helped you feel like you were peering in; like a child looking into a fishbowl.

Overall, I really enjoyed the play and would recommend it to anyone looking for a kindred spirit in the chaos of family life. There are some natural highs and lows of the show but don’t expect a big climax - this is more of a showing of a brief moment in a family’s life rather than the typical Hollywood flow. Please note that there is a content warning for this show as it refers to abuse, death and violence.

I feel the play is best described as a quote from the story, “I can’t believe it. They hate each other yet they talk every day,” and if that doesn’t sum up family I don’t know what does.

Image Supplied


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