‘American Song’ draws empathy out of horror

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Joe Petruzzi as Andy.

Theatre / “American Song”, written by Joanna Murray-Smith and directed by Tom Healey. Performed by Joe Petruzzi. At The Q until March 7. Reviewed by JOHN LOMBARD.

ANDY (Joe Petruzzi) builds a stone wall. As he fits the pieces, he tells us fragments of his broken life.

Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s play is a suspense biography. An unspoken tragedy obliterated Andy and as he tells his mundane story each fresh detail is a potential harbinger of doom.

Murray-Smith uses cautiously selected details to construct this American character, suspending Australian judgements so Andy can speak honestly about the alien-to-us parts of American life such as gun culture.

Joe Petruzzi, of Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, plays mellow everyman Andy with an unaffected delivery and the groping gestures of a man who thinks with his hands.

Director Tom Healy takes a spartan approach that gives Andy’s story dignity.

The desolate backdrop suggested a wilderness of the soul, and the stark unfinished wall dominated the stage like a waiting tomb.

Andy’s delve into his life in search of original sin becomes harrowing, but Murray-Smith balances this with good humour. Her wry observations of the travails of parenting earned rueful chuckles from the audience.

“American Song” is an act of empathy out of horror, a grasp at understanding uniquely American tragedies through one ordinary man’s faltering song.



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