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Just wow 😳
A Fool in Love is delightfully ridiculous and sharp-witted: social satire at its finest
By Lisa Portolan, Western Sydney University
Van Badham’s A Fool in Love at the Sydney Theatre Company lampoons the modern Sydney vibe: a city obsessed with wealth, status and, of course, love.
Designer Isabel Hudson’s candy-coloured set, lolly-pop-esque orange trees and sherbet-coloured tinsel attire seem to vibrate the essence of the city as we move juggernaut-like towards the festivities of Valentine’s day and Mardi Gras.
Based on Lope de Vega’s 17th-century production La Dama Boba, Badham transports us to a camp version of the original nestled in a bourgeois beachside enclave – the embodiment of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. We find ourselves in a world obsessed with private schools, linen attire, and the maintenance (if not stock-piling) of funds.
What’s love got to do with it?
Ottavio (Johnny Nasser) is yet another linen-clad specimen, the heir to a once-thriving empire in the automotive parts manufacturing realm, now plummeting into irreparable decline.
To sustain his lavish lifestyle and secure the dwindling family fortune, he faces the daunting task of orchestrating the marriage of his eldest daughter, Phynayah (Contessa Treffone).
To inherit her eccentric uncle’s remarkable fortune – and maintain her family’s coveted social standing – Phynayah must marry before she’s 30. A difficult task in a city like Sydney, where romantics are snuffed out by dating apps and the idea there are always greener pastures one swipe away.
However, such a romantic deal (the promise of wealth and cultural standing), attracts more than one ambitious suitor. Phynayah’s clever and social climbing sister Vanessa (Melissa Kahraman) also “brings the boys to the yard” for herself.
The tale of making love to Phynayah is not as straightforward as it seems. Beautiful, and soon to be in possession of great wealth, Phynayah could be perceived as a modern catch: but these days suitors want more. They expect brains as well – not to mention a sizeable Instagram and TikTok account.
Clueless, witless, and perpetually silly, Treffone’s Phynayah embodies immaturity itself, donning a crochet bikini and serving as a living banal joke.