A Man Walks Into a Bar

Good Luck Bar (basement, 126 Cuba Mall), Wellington

20/11/2006 - 29/11/2006

Production Details

by David Geary
directed by David Lawrence


An audience walks into a bar; two actors walk into a bar … David Geary’s most recent play, fresh from it’s Canadian premiere.   

with Ryan O'Kane and Jodie Hillock

Theatre ,

approx 1 hour, no interval

Sharp, slick precision

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Mar 2007

Its obvious that with a title like A Man Walked into a Bar that the only logical venue would be a bar and the Goodluck Bar in Cuba Street is an ideal venue for this tightly scripted and excellently performed two-hander that looks at the types of people that come into a bar. 

Who they are, what they are there for and whether they are on their own or with someone else are all covered in this fascinating piece of theatre.  It also soon obvious that a bar as a meeting place of people is a microcosm of society and that what people bring when going for a drink – their fears, woes, and happiness – is the reality of life. 

That the production is a success is of course due to its strong pedigree, well known writer David Geary, seasoned director of the Bacchanals, David Lawrence and experienced actors Ryan O’Kane and Jody Hillock.

Sitting at a table on a bar stool each these two actors deliver the dialogue with sharp, slick precision never missing a beat, the more eloquent passages finely contrasted with the fast and furious one liners, they also provide enough movement in and around the table to make the piece visually stimulating as well. 

While the ‘A Man Walked into a Bar’ jokes become a little repetitious and tedious this still doesn’t detract overly from the creativity of the piece.


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Needs work?

Review by Lynn Freeman 22nd Feb 2007

David Geary’s short experimental play A Man Walks Into a Bar is performed in a bar, which works, but the play itself needs work.  It’s not quite one thing nor the other. Much of it sees the actors telling variations of a man / woman / crocodile/ horse walks in to a bar and says… 

The far more interesting aspect, though, are the stories of some of the characters we meet only fleetingly. Notably the old couple together for almost 60 years, most of it spent unhappily, at least on the wife’s part – I wanted much, much more of this kind of story. 

The problem lies not with the actors, Ryan O’Kane and Jodie Hillock, who are engaging and work well with the audience and in the space.


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Theatre of enigma and intrigue

Review by John Smythe 20th Nov 2006

An audience walks into a bar. They’ve come alone, in pairs or in small groups, expecting a play. So as they buy drinks and gather at small tables in the space beyond one end of the basement bar, they become an audience, in waiting …

There’s a high table against the walled-off end of the bar. A man walks in and sits at it … Those who recognise him as the advertised actor, Ryan O’Kane (who just last Saturday won Best Actor at the Qantas TV Awards for Insider’s Guide to Love), now assume the play has started. The spotlight on him seems to confirm it. But he’s doing nothing. Well, grinning a bit and looking embarrassed …

A woman walks in and joins him. Jodie Hillock (the other name on the poster; just graduated from Toi Whakaari). She gets the giggles, goes back to the bar, returns … Pause. I’m reminded of an early exchange between the two theatre critics in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound:

BIRDBOOT:  Has it started yet?

MOON:  Yes.

           (Pause …)

BIRDBOOT:  Are you sure?

MOON:  It’s a pause.

BIRDBOOT:  You can’t start with a pause!

Well this play does. Called A Man Walks Into a Bar and written by our own David Geary, who currently lives in Canada, it premiered at The Walking Fish Festival of short plays at Granville Island, Vancouver, on 31 May this year and this is a subsequent draft.

The man has the first line – guess what – and most of their exchanges begin with that or variations on the theme: "A woman …", "A fish …", you get the idea. And very soon, thanks to the way the man and woman relate, it becomes clear – in an absurdist kind of way (I’m reminded of Ionesco and N F Simpson now) – that there’s more to this relationship than meets the eye.

We’re getting glimpses of lives that could be theirs, or those of real people, or made up but if so, for a purpose, if only we could glean it. No matter how heavy, light, weird, realistic, funny or serious it gets, it always has the ring of truth about it and so (because most people are compulsive meaning machines) we keep searching the apparently random exchanges for clues …

And all the while, the ‘truth’ is being deconstructed. A major story involving a man and two women wants to be a joke but isn’t. Told from two very different perspectives, it proves that ‘truth’ is a function of subjective interpretation and selective memory. And so the questions remain: Who exactly are they to each other? Is their relationship past, current or just beginning? Is the message in the bottle or beyond it, fore or aft? Or is any ‘true’ meaning it may have for them to believe and us to make up for ourselves?

In the hands – or rather the minds and bodies; the outward performances and inner beings – of O’Kane and Hillock, directed by David Lawrence, this is theatre of enigma and intrigue; a foxtrot through ambiguity. When the man and woman are finally deconstructed to nothing but two actors who have walked into a bar, it feels like reductio ad absurdum: that conclusion cannot be the premise, surely! We have recognised far too much of the real world …

In this hour of ‘nothing’ that touches on ‘everything’, we have enquired into the theatrical art of make believe itself. And chatting afterwards, as one is more inclined to do in a bar, we recognise this play’s thematic, metaphysical and meta-theatrical affiliations to Geary’s A Shaggy Dog Story, King of Stains and Lovelock’s Dream Run.

Doubtless offering a journey of continuous discovery for its perpetrators, A Man Walks Into a Bar is already a tipple well worth sampling.


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