“CARA Carissima”, by Canberra poet Geoff Page, is a delightfully quirky one-hour play in verse. Set in a Canberra coffee bar, we eavesdrop on an unhappily married senior public servant (Peter Robinson) and his recently-single executive assistant (Cara Irvine). His wife (Nikki-Lyn Hunter) and her sister (Kate Blackhurst) also meet for coffee there and the barista (Bruno Galdino) observes their interactions and keeps us informed of developments.
Irvine as the executive assistant gives a standout performance. With her nicely judged playing of a woman keeping her emotions just under control, she is totally believable. Robinson gives an appealing, naturalistic performance as the senior public servant, providing much of the humour in the show as he flounders in his dealings with the three women. Hunter is effectively edgy as the bitter wife and Blackhurst is a strong presence as the wife’s sister. As the all-knowing barista, Galdino is quite impressive. He’s charming to his customers but there’s a creepy insincerity under the surface.
Tanya Gruber has directed the show with great attention to detail in the characterisations. On a simple coffee shop set, designed by Charlotte Stewart, it plays very well in the round. The director has ensured that the actors handle the reading of the verse effectively. Much of the humour of the play works because of the rhythm of the verse.
Geoff Page has written a compelling slice of life with good characters and a story we can all relate to and enjoy.