I never saw the 1987 movie version of the psychological thriller, Fatal Attraction. A friend who did says the story line of the one act play by the film script writer, James Dearden, is similar bar the ending and that it lack the fullness of the movie. In the interests of the other three people who didn’t see the movie but who will see the play, I deliberately refrain from pointing out what the ending is.
The stage version of the script brings us a morality play rather than a psychological thriller, and must have been a nightmare for director, Paula Bangels, to coordinate a mind-boggling succession of short scenes taking place in bars, bedrooms, offices, and the Gallagher apartment and rural home. Curiously the audience makes the transitions easily, so it seemed Bangels succeeded exceptionally well – especially making a weak script about as compelling as it can be. Part of the success of the work must be attributed to a very clever and wonderfully minimalistic slatted box set by Marjolein Ettema, with changing faces behind the action.
The premise of the play is that Dan Gallagher (Ashley Dowds), a happily married lawyer in New York, has a one weekend fling with Alex Forrest (Jazzara Jaslyn), an attractive woman he meets in a bar, while his wife, Beth (Jenny Stead), and daughter (not a physical presence) are in the countryside visiting his mother-in-law (Jo da Silva). He intends to end the fling but it turns out that Alex is not lightly discarded. Alex is mentally unstable, even psychotic, and she proceeds to stalk him, terrorising him and his family. However the audience is left in the dark as to why Dan doesn’t take the advice of Jimmy (Alex Tops), his friend and colleague, and go to the police once his wife knows about the fling.
The acting is superb despite the fact that no one scene lasts long enough to make any real emotional impact. There is no backstory to Alex’s bizarre behaviour although her wonderful presence is awe-inspiring, and her portrayal of a seriously disturbed psychopath is excellent. Dan’s wife, Beth, is one of those roles that doesn’t really have much meat in the script, and the end result is that the poor Jenny Stead is left trying to bring some flavour to a really bland role. Ashley Dowds does an excellent job of conveying Dan’s escalating panic at first and his remorseful self-loathing later.
The script is hazy about the horrendous acts Alex Forrest inflicts on the family and the famous “boiled bunny” is glossed over to the point that one knows something awful happened to the bunny, but not what. The term “bunny boiler” has now, formally or informally, entered the English language to indicate a crazy stalker after a brief affair has ended. I really think that cutting this revolting act down to a mere hint might have been directorially convenient, but caused a loss of impact of just how totally deranged Alex really is. It is, perhaps, a symbol of how little we, the audience, care about the fate of Dan, his family, and Alex.
Lighting was by Faheem Bardien, music by David Cantens. The play is 90 minutes long with no interval.
To sum up, the script is flawed and no amount of clever direction and skilled acting can really turn it into the famed psychological thriller that the 1987 movie is. (I really must get to see it). However, it is a pleasant enough outing not to be a waste of money and time. However, it is not a “must see” either.
Fatal Attraction plays at the Pieter Toerien Theatre in Montecasino until 6 May 2018.