A classic bedroom farce with a cyber-twist

Mellow Drama’s latest production – Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s off-Broadway comedy of manners You’ve Got Hate Mail – tells the story of two-timing lawyer Richard (John Montanaro), whose indiscretions are caught by his wife thanks to the wonders of modern information technology. TEODOR RELJIC speaks to the cast and crew of this cyber-farce, playing at St James Cavalier soon.

Having put up plays that speak to the contemporary experience in some way, do you think that You’ve Got Hate Mail is an example of a ‘typical’ Mellow Drama play, and how would you describe it within that context?

James Calvert: Generally speaking there is only really one rule we apply when choosing our productions – they need to be funny. If they have the potential to make people laugh then we are happy to take them out for a spin.

Having said that, we do try and keep our eyes open for scripts that are a little bit out of the ordinary and You’ve Got Hate Mail certainly slots into that category. Essentially, this is a tale of a man whose life goes rapidly downhill when an email that was meant to go to his lover ends up on his wife’s computer. What follows is a classic bedroom farce, with the unique twist that the plot unfolds entirely through email. A broadband comedy of errors.

Pia Zammit: It’s exactly the reason why this is a relevant play and not archaic. We don’t go round to each other’s houses to ‘talk’ anymore, at times we don’t even phone each other. We email. Take my best friends – we email each other daily but we only call and/or meet a couple of times a week.

It’s how we exchange most of our news, gossip and general life sorting out. Rather than hinging a concept, I would say that this play is still a ‘slice of life’ as most plays are – however, by communicating through a different medium. Characters typing at a computer may not seem like the most visually arresting setup on stage. How do you think the play gets around this?

Jo Caruana: While this isn’t a very physical play, there is absolutely loads going on. The story moves very quickly – almost frantically – between the five characters, which makes it brilliant to watch. It’s very fast-paced and the script feels very visual in itself, which easily makes up for the fact that we don’t do a lot of running around.

Julia Calvert: When you walk out the door after the performance reeling from the fast paced, quick witted, comical and so true to life reactions you won’t need to ask that question anymore. As long as you have a good bunch of actors able to pull off superb facial reactions and let the wit flow with every word… besides it’s something different! Maltese audiences always want to see something new.

I’m more than certain that the cast brought a lot of their own experience to bear on this... how did they manage to relate to the characters, and the situations?

Jo: Easily. We’ve all had that experience, haven’t we? We’ve sent a text to the wrong person (messaging Mum, instead of the boyfriend), or hitting send and then wishing, in an instant, you could take back the nasty thing you just said. We’ve also seen things we didn’t want to see - perhaps an ex looking blissful with a new girlfriend on Facebook.

Pia: Well seeing as my character is a busty, thick, common, hyper-emotional hot piece of ass I didn’t have to do much relating. I just turn up and say my lines and don’t even have to worry about bumping into the furniture ‘cos there isn’t any. No wait. There IS one difference between me and Wanda – I’m NOT common! Tsk!

John Montanaro: Thank God what happens to my character Richard in the play never happened to me in real life... the characters are very real, and easy to relate to, and you become immersed in the character, you start taking inspirations from life experiences, do be able to deal with the situation in play.

You’ve Got Hate Mail will be playing at St James Cavalier, Valletta on June 3-5; 10-12; 17-19 at 20:00, with a special night show on June 11 and 18 at 22:00. Tickets at €15 (€10 for first weekend) can be booked by calling 21 223200 or logging on to: https://ticketengine.sjcav.org/. The play is rated 18.