The Opposite Sex – a comedy for the masses

Cold Theatre 7’s latest production The Opposite Sex by David Tristram had its opening night at the Lionel Wendt on 16 November.

Directed by Kevin Cruze, the amateur production is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd.
The troupe’s first-ever full-length comedy, the play is a fairly big step out of their comfort zone.

Speaking about the change in genre, Director Kevin Cruze said: “In all our past plays, I invested a lot of time into production, characterisation, and music which is originally created. This year, with the work load it was a little difficult.”
Despite the time constraints, Kevin was determined to stage a production this year and so we have The Opposite Sex.

Set in the 80s, the narrative is centred on two married couples – Vicky and Mark, and, Jeannette and Derrick. The comedy weaves its story in two acts, as the two unhappy marriages unfortunately become intertwined.

The story unfolds as part-time marriage counsellor, Vicky, and her advertising professional husband, Mark, try to be civil to the naive yet kind-hearted Jeannette, and her yuppie-hating resentful husband Derrick.

The characters were portrayed by Shehan “Babs” Wijemanne as Nigel, Wayne White as Mark, Sulochana Perera as Vicky, Wasaam Ismail as Derrick, and Kavitha Gunesekera as Jeanette.

Considering the preference of Sri Lankan audiences, who heavily favour comedy or musicals, and also considering that it is performed by an ensemble cast of experienced thespians – theoretically, the production was set up to be a sure-fire winner.
The set design and costumes were absolutely fantastic, with a simple set created almost perfectly to mimic the residence of a young urban professional, and the costumes being fairly on point.

The performances often leaned towards being loud caricatures, and while many may have chalked it off to an artistic choice to deliver hammy performances, the rare glimpses of actual character embodiment left some wondering.
An argument can be made however, that due to the slapstick nature of the production, the over-exaggerated deliveries were intentional.

The play managed to be rather enjoyable in a slightly juvenile way. The jokes were funny and, paired with its universally relatable subject matter, it proved to be a good time.

The narrative provides that we care – somewhat – for the well-meaning Jeanette and grow to detest Derrick for always putting her down to feed his own insecurities; the yuppie couple however failed to evoke too much emotion.

Audience member Mayan Haputhanthri said: “The set design made the stage look very full, and the sounds all served its purpose. Although my friend thinks it was hilarious, it was slow going in the beginning; but it picked up towards the end. Most of it was all jokes for the sake of jokes, which was fine and enjoyable.”

The slow pace of the first half was also mentioned by audience members Amanda Aluwihare and Shabeeb, who said: “It was a great show, it was simple, but took a little while to get going.”

Awandi Kohilawatte, who was at the Wendt with her friend Rushika, made an interesting observation. She said: “The crowd is surprisingly smaller than I expected. I think it’s because of the R-rating,” adding “I know a few people who were put off by the trailers.”

Grace Wickramasinghe, better known as houseofgracebygracew on Instagram, said: “I thought the casting was on point and the chemistry between them really made it enjoyable. The script was well-written and better executed. Hats off! Definitely worth watching!”

Considering that several others expressed similar sentiments, one cannot declare that the overall production was certainly well-loved.