The Basement, Auckland

12/03/2013 - 16/03/2013

Production Details

“Talk to me.” 

Guy falls for guy. Guy doesn’t talk. Guy keeps falling.
And I Was Like is a story about a love without words.

When Philip meets Trace, his speechlessness is charming, endearing and just a bit unusual. But when months later his mute boyfriend won’t tell him why he’s not talking Philip tries everything he to fix Trace and break the silence. And I Was Like is a fascinating look at communication in a relationship and how desperate we are to understand each other. 

Shortlisted for Playmarket’s 2013 ADAM Award  

Following 2012’s acclaimed Goddess and Mab’s Room double bill, Smoke Labours Productions is back at The Basement March 12‐16 with another new play by Sam Brooks (Playmarket’s Playwrights b4 25 2012 winner).

In a cast headed up by Eli Matthewson (Square Eye Pair, Velcro City) and Taofia Pelesasa (A Frigate Bird Sings, The Factory), and featuring Elyse Brock (Goddess), Kate Castle (Spring Awakening) and Steven Chudley (Mab’s Room). And I Was Like is a trip into the mind of a person who simply chooses not to talk. 

And I Was Like
March 12‐16, 8pm
Duration: 80 minutes
Venue: The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD 


Cast List:
Trace – Eli Matthewson
Philip – Taofia Pelesasa
Anna – Elyse Brock
Christine – Kate Castle
Mark/Jono/Waiter – Steven Chudley

Crew List
Writer/Director/Set Design – Sam Brooks
Lighting Design/Stage Manager – Amber Molloy
Sound Design – Jaz Davis

1hr 20mins

And I Was Like: Whatever

Review by Matt Baker 15th Mar 2013

In his programme notes, writer and director Sam Brooks puts forth the question, “What happens when you take one of the fundamental pillars of relationships, the words, out of the equation?” He summarises by saying that “when it gets from the stage to your faces, maybe you’ll get your answer.” If there is an answer to be found in this play, it is a bleak one.

The premise itself has promise, but the show inevitably fails in its execution of it. It focuses on relationship dynamics, but presents them as nothing more than selfish and ugly. When Philip falls in love with Trace, who is mute, his closest friend, Christine, tells him he is making a mistake. Why? Because she doesn’t want to see him get hurt. Yet there is no reason to believe this will happen so early on in the piece. Trace’s sister chastises both of them. Even Trace himself seems completely nonchalant towards Philip. Silence is one thing, but Trace is actually closed off. [More]


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Masterful subtlety in a smart piece of theatre

Review by Joselyn Khor 13th Mar 2013

AND I WAS LIKE … talk to me is a title that whispers what it is like delving into the abyss of relationships. I am drawn by the description: “… looking at communication in a relationship and how desperate we are to understand each other.”

We are given intimate insight into the turmoil, heartbreak and progressive disintegration of a relationship when verbal communication – the beacon of hope in every shrink’s repertoire of saving graces – fails, or is removed completely.

It’s comedy, drama and tragedy mingling in the decadent quandary that is 21st century dating.

Entering The Basement engenders a sense of entering the inner sanctum of a conclave where secrets will be revealed. Good for emotional scenes as you see the actors up close. Perfect for small-scale productions, this arena is stripped back so the actors can tell the story with zero distractions.

In the opening scene you get a sense of what’s to come. Guesswork and imagination going into overload as a girl in a red dress – Christine (Kate Castle) – sits alone atop a table eating celery and hummus.

Philip, played by an effervescent and extremely talkative – almost hyperactive – Taofia Pelesasa, emerges from the crowd. This first scene introduces us to four out of five members of the small cast.  

“You’re late!” Christine hollers at Philip, who replies with a witty one-liner. Sam Brooks’ script is sprinkled with brazen gay jokes, given life and impeccably delivered by the extraordinary talent of Pelesasa.  

Christine’s boyfriend Mark, played by Steven Chudley, reluctantly accepts Philip’s sudden appearance, inciting an equally daring rebuttal along the lines of, “You know me, coming in the back door.”  

We learn Philip has arrived at Christine’s house party. Hard to tell with no other visible attendees: just Philip, Christine, Mark and a slight young male, standing stage right, seemingly in his own world with a cigarette and useless lighter. (Not sure if it is a real cigarette he is smoking. If so, then it is a little disconcerting whilst I am trapped in this small venue.) 

So begins Philip’s frenzied courtship of Trace (Eli Matthewson), the mysterious guy in a white t-shirt, plain blue jeans and Chucks. We all love the mystery man with literally nothing to say. Philip forges on …  

The atmosphere created by the ghostly party sets the tone. Peppered between the ramblings of Philip, we take an in-breath for Trace’s response only to be greeted by deafening silence. The echoes of Philip’s enthusiasm awkwardly ring in our ears. What starts off as a contemporary 21st tale about male-on-male, interracial courtship takes a bittersweet turn. 

The one-sided dialogue is at times, superfluous, with Philip rambling on about being a “talkative, gay [computer] coder with a weakness for pretty boys.” At other times, humour arises from Philip’s forging on bravely into the darkness, desperately seeking the light, getting hopelessly lost in the entrancing stare of his unresponsive counterpart.

The scene transitions are effortless with an effective flick of the light switch. Although Amber Molloy’s lighting design is basic – spotlight, downlight with occasional usage of red and blue filters – it pulls the story along. Flash red and we’ve fast-forwarded; lights off/on and the actors are into the next moment.

Be warned that when darkness prevails, it signals the start of brief, but captivating sex scenes. The enchanting image may stay with you long after the light is turned on.

The impressive professionalism of these two actors – who may or may not be gay – is expressed in their convincingly tender eye contact and kisses. There is no hint of discomfort between the pair.   

Minimal props allow the actors to make progress on their characters’ plight without many distractions. One such distraction, however, is in Eli Matthewson’s depiction of Trace. Pelesasa’s scene stealing energy is martyred by Mathewson’s coolness. They say opposites attract; this takes it to the extreme. 

In the moments Trace allows a smile to escape, we are drawn in, but this interest is quickly diminished as he just as rapidly returns to his sombre ways. Playing a mute is tricky at best, but there are a variety of visual cues that can work.

Matthewson in this instance plays Trace apathetically. The lackadaisical energy and muted use of facial expressions draws really close to what can only be described as a lacklustre, almost catatonic performance: sulky, sullen, forlorn and cold; puzzling at best, infuriating at worst.

Brooks may have intentionally directed Matthewson to become a character people are unable and eventually unwilling to relate to. The lack of gestures, or even any semblance of recognition for other people is gratingly frustrating. I found myself wanting to shout, “What is wrong with you?” It could have been Brooks’ aim for the audience to not become emotionally invested in Trace but he’s toeing the line a bit when we are faced with a mute who makes no attempt to express himself through other means. 

Trace initially seems like a fascinating creature. What mysteries could we learn from him? What inner knowledge has encouraged his tenacity in refusing to speak to the world? Brooks’ intelligence and insight is revealed as the laughs fade. Again, not all is as it seems with Brooks.

The symbolic use of cards deals a great blow to our psyche in this story about how relationships can disintegrate into mind-games and manipulation, in a heart beat. Trace likes to play games, especially when it comes to the world around him. It is his sister Anna, played by Elyse Brock, who reveals his game plan – and why he plays this way.  

Philip’s desperation and despair allows us the insight we ache for, into the pain of his desperation to please and satisfy Trace, all for a little recognition and acknowledgement: the pain of unrequited love; the pain caused by an aloof partner.  

The play is a chilling look at how non-communication may be a tool for torture; how it breaks down the psychological fortress hiding our weak emotional core.

Trace allows Philip a chance to hear him talk, on one condition: if Philip wins at his game of cards. We learn more about the heart of man when we see the games he’s willing to play. In this instance, it’s a cruel twist to see the idiom laid out: “You play the hand you’re dealt with.” 

Overall AND I WAS LIKE … talk to me leaves me speechless. The revelations, and what I figure out for myself about this Trace character, lead me to conclude this is a smart piece of theatre: quite masterful in its subtlety; capable of burrowing deep into our thoughts to drag out answers of our own instead of jamming them down our throats.  


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