Review: The Way Things Work

The Way Things Work
Written and directed by Aidan Fennessy
Starring Joe Petruzzi and Peter Houghton
Playing at Red Stitch Theatre

A blistering, blustery dissection of the shenanigans and double dealings that go on in private spaces, The Way Things Work is a brilliant satire featuring characters who believe corruption and underhandedness is simply a necessity in order to get things done. “Democracy dies behind closed doors” one character remarks early in the piece, and it proves to be one of the most telling lines of the entire show.

Divided into three acts, with a different setting and different characters featuring in each segment, we’re first introduced to a conniving but charming politician who is facing a royal commission and wants to curry the favour of a public servant via an off-the-record discussion. The rising tension in this segment is palpable, and the performances of the show’s two cast members – Joe Petruzzi and Peter Houghton – are incredible here.
For the next segment, we’re in the offices of a construction company in bed with the government and involved in some shady underhanded tactics of their own. The third and final setting is a prison, and we meet a con who has just committed a shocking act of violence, but his motive and those of the prison guard watching over him become more complex and twisted by the minute.
Aidan Fennessy’s play is acerbic and biting, and has an undercurrent of dark humour throughout. Petruzzi and Houghton find the humour in all three scenarios and their characters’ machismo is so much fun to watch. Special mention must be given to the range both actors display. Houghton has the subtler role in the first segment, but becomes the more boisterous and commanding character in the later two segments. Petruzzi’s all-too-real depiction of an MP is first rate, intent on justifying his shady tactics to himself and the public. At the conclusion, you feel like you’ve spent time with six distinct characters. The actors’ chemistry is brilliant and the only downside of Fennessy’s innovative format is that we don’t get to spend longer than half an hour with each set of characters. You’ll be wanting more of all three segments and their inhabitants.
The Way Things Work is a wonderful way to kick off Red Stitch Theatre’s 2017 program, a timely look at how easy it can be to get away with things when no-one is looking, and a cautionary tale of how blokey brinkmanship from those in power can quickly spiral out of control.

The Way Things Work is currently playing at Red Stitch Actor’s Theatre, located at Rear 2 Chapel Street, St Kilda East.

Bookings can be made at this link: http://redstitch.net/bookings/

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