Written and performed by Maria Angelico
Review by Martha “MJ” Latham
Comedy doesn’t have to be funny. This was a really odd lesson for me to learn in this show. Maria Angelico tells an incredibly sad story of desperately chasing a father who will never love her back. At first you find yourself laughing at the character Maria has created, an anxious magician’s assistant in a bunny suit who is awaiting her magician to arrive on-stage. The assistant tries multiple different ways to keep the audience engaged, from performing the intro without the magician (a lot of standing and pointing) to performing the tricks herself (a lot of card dropping and stumbling). She plays this up and the story gets sadder and sadder, and soon we learn the magician she’s awaiting upon is actually her estranged father who abandoned her and her mother when she was a baby. Maria is not a relatable character by any means. She has chased her father across the nation, betrayed her mother’s wishes and pushed herself into a job she’s desperately unqualified and uncomfortable with.
She describes the lessons her father has taught her about what it takes to be a good assistant. To be silent. To be sexy. Don’t take focus. Learn the tricks and don’t mess them up. Be responsible for tour schedules, bookings and audience engagement. The story culminates in Maria coming out onstage stuck in a box after trying to saw herself in half, and frees herself (perhaps too neat a metaphor). It doesn’t take long post-show before you realise that you weren’t watching a comedy act, you were watching a victim describe her abuse.
Despite this, you just keep laughing. You laugh and laugh and laugh until eventually you’re crying and you don’t really know where one started and the other ended. The story moves so seamlessly from laughing at to crying with and Maria’s performance style never changes. As an audience member you’re left questioning the difference between a comedy and a drama. Maybe there is no difference? Though pre and post-show we can determine a work as one or the other, maybe for those brief moments when a performer is up onstage its all the same kind of mush. Maybe that’s what good storytelling is? Putting all your dirty laundry in the machine and watching the stains fade.
The Disappearing Act played at the Malthouse Playbox until 24 April. Find information here.
Follow Maria Angelico on Instagram @mariagloriagraceangelico.