Enrico Luttmann's Family Secrets, currently onstage at Theatre on the Bay, is an enjoyable, soap-opera inspired melodrama, directed by Alan Swerdlow, starring Sven Ruygrok and Dorothy Ann Gould.
As a bittersweet comedy that runs with emotional highs and lows, Family Secrets may not necessarily grab you by the heartstrings with intense pathos, but it does have a sense of sad-silliness that very amusingly tickles one’s curiosity. In between bouts of giggles, I found myself trying to suss out the end game of the bickering mother and son who, even though they do love each other, realise that they’ve hidden so much of themselves they're practically strangers.
Family Secrets is melodrama that makes you feel like you’re watching a telenovela infused with soap-opera type dramatics and wired relationships. The characters are informed by strong emotions rather than character development. However, this is all a perfect fit for this play; its over-indulgences a reflection of the Dallas to Day of Our Lives style story-lines we all know to be embellished with the aim to entertain.
The play craftily entraps both its characters and audience in a loop of heightened sentiment with everything continuously circling back to one question: What is the difference between a telenovela and a soap opera? Cued by this recurring question, the play addresses familiar themes of family connections, secrets, and loss.
A play that may runs the risk of being somewhat one-dimensional, the current staging of Family Secrets is given a great boost thanks to the punchy direction of Alan Swerdlow. With the current English production, Swerdlow has managed to celebrate the Italian-essence of Enrico Luttmann’s play, while also presenting an easily digestible, yet pithy and vivacious, version.
Add to that the energised performances of the talented Sven Ruygrok as Adamo (a son in search of identity and family roots) and the celebrated Dorothy Ann Gould as Grazia (his riddled-with-regret mother who secretly wants to be an adored teacher with the grace of Audrey Hepburn) and you’re sure to find yourself a happily entertained and enthused audience member.
You can see Family Secrets at Theatre on the Bay until 13 July 2019, with tickets available online through Computicket.