Counting The Ways

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

07/04/2010 - 17/04/2010

Production Details


How do I love thee?

Clean shirts, wilting roses and endless cups of tea… Is this all there is left to look forward to, when you’ve loved someone so long it has become impossible to remember where you end and they begin?

Counting the Ways is a heart-achingly funny yet bittersweet window into the world of HE (Nick Zwart) and SHE (Amelia Reynolds), an older couple struggling to fit together. The monotonous routine of everyday life and their need for individuality has taken over the act of being in love.

“In life we arm ourselves with characters and roles in the hope of forming a barrier against conflict and hurt” muses director Daniel Brown, “Counting the Ways is a shining example of how silly we can be even when we are going through heartache and pain. Sometimes the hardest thing is simply being honest with each other and yourself. This little gem of Albee’s reminds me of why we struggle through the hard times; it is through the struggle we hope to find what we are looking for, acceptance.”

Edward Albee is a wonderful playwright, who is rarely staged professionally in New Zealand and is a must-see for theatre enthusiasts across the generations.  

Counting the Ways is a poignant and potent absurdist play. Albee demands more than laughter from his audience; we are invited to be a part of this hilarious yet tender look at what it means to be a human searching for our own little slice of ‘happily ever after’.

Daniel is currently studying for his BA with Honours at Victoria University’s Theatre Programme. "Counting the Ways was an excellent production at Victoria University’s Studio 77 last year and deserves to be seen by a wider public. Daniel Brown is an exceptionally promising young director,” says David O’Donnell, course coordinator for the 300-level directing paper.

Back by popular demand, this season of Counting the Ways at the Gryphon Theatre will be the second time the play has been produced in Wellington within a year. Following the success of the abridged performance in October 2009, the wider Wellington community now has a chance to see the full-length production this April.

The celebrated original cast is back together, working alongside talented designer Nell Williams to bring effervescence to the play.

Counting the Ways was outstanding! Daniel and his cast have treated this play with integrity and an absolute commitment to truth. The direction was impeccable and the performances moving and evocative.” (Rachel Lenart, Theatre Militia)

A must-see for anyone who wished for happily ever after, we recommend you book your seats now!

8pm, Wednesday 7 to Saturday 17 April (Matinee 3pm Sunday, no show Monday)
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Bookings 934 4068 or   
$25 Waged/$20 Concession/$15 Groups
By arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, on behalf of Dramatists Play Service Inc New York.

Nick Zwart (Vienna Verona) and
Amelia Reynolds (Paradise Cafe)

Designed by Nell Williams
Produced by Jo Bean 

Playful theatrical sonnet portrays ageing love story

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th Apr 2010

The title of Edward Albee’s rarely performed play Counting the Ways refers to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s most famous sonnet in her Sonnets from the Portuguese. (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”) When it was first performed in 1976 it was part of an Albee double bill with a play called Listening and the title Counting the Ways was followed by the words: A Vaudeville.

The play is a theatrical sonnet: it’s short, elliptical, playful, and confined to just one topic: the fading of love as we age. There are two characters: He and She who are approaching old age. She doggedly wants to know if He still loves her. He slides off into thoughts about the poetry of W.H. Auden or wondering why their double bed has suddenly become two single beds, or how many children did they have.

The Vaudeville aspect is declared in the backdrop of fairy lights and paper flowers festooning the stage, the one hour play being broken up into about twenty short scenes, the occasional use of a follow-spot, and a musician performing at the side of the stage (director Daniel Brown). 

He and She perform a brief dance a couple of times, talk occasionally directly to audience members, and then for one scene they drop their roles and revert to Nick Zwart and Amelia Rose Reynolds, young New Zealand actors ad-libbing briefly about themselves, while a sign (Identify Yourselves) is projected onto the stage floor behind a row of footlights.

He and She are to some extent a double act like Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot but instead of waiting they are wondering what happened to that thing called romantic love. It’s a pity that He and She are played by actors in their twenties. They have to act on the borderline between middle-age and old age, and their obvious youthfulness, despite not very successful attempts at subtly suggesting ageing, plays against the poignancy of He and She’s situation.

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Engaging, moving, provoking, satisfying

Review by Maryanne Cathro 08th Apr 2010

I love Edward Albee’s plays: the bitter sweet toying with words as if they were alternately or randomly even; chocolates and razor blades. He is as essentially American as Truman Capote or John Updike, all bringing an irrepressible sense of storytelling to their work.

There is in this play that same quality. Although it is a series of vignettes, some merely seconds long, there is still a strong sense of a story with not so much a plot as a coherent narrative about relationships between husband and wife, through just one husband and wife. While the words don’t always make sense, or resolve themselves, it works.

In this production, both actors are in their early twenties. I admire the choice not to try and age the actors with painted wrinkles or spray grey hair. While there is nothing I can definitely pin it to, their performances give enough of an indication of old age to be credible just as they are – more a deft sketch than a detailed painting.

Amelia Rose Reynolds’ annoying habit of talking so fast it was nearly impossible to catch the words rendered the production unsatisfying to my hearing-impaired companion, and indeed marred an otherwise fine performance as SHE. In every other way she is luminous and if she can tackle the vocal pace and pitch, will be one to watch out for.

Nick Zwart’s much more measured delivery and shaggy appearance made HE an endearing character, with hidden depths.

Director Daniel Brown also provides musical accompaniment including vocals that add to the production far more than canned music would have.

Visually the production is promising – fairy lights strung vertically define the stage, tangled with roses and archways – a telling complement of romantic fantasy against modern day reality: great work by Nell Williams. I felt however that Uther Dean’s lighting design means that much of that promise does not deliver – not enough light in the right places makes it obtrusive rather than the subliminal support it could have been to the mood of the play.*

So it isn’t one of those perfect pieces of theatre that sometimes occur. But oh my goodness, Counting the Ways is such a good play it transcends most of the issues in the production itself, and I suspect most of these will be ironed out after opening night. This is storytelling as it should be: engaging and moving the audience in different ways, provoking and satisfying at the same time.
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* [Note: Counting the Ways is sharing the space with a daytime production, Robin Hood and the Lost Crown – ED]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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