Red Phoenix Theatre
Holden Street Theatres
Until 31 Aug 2019

Review by Paige Mulholland

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, and, if “Dividing the Estate” is anything to go by, the same can be said for money.

Think of the whispers in your family about inheritance, turn the passive aggression up to 11, and you can imagine the plot of “Dividing the Estate”. The comedy follows the story of the Gordons, a family with a large estate in Texas that is rapidly losing value and being eaten up by taxes. They battle over whether they should divide their estate and claim their inheritance while their elderly matriarch is still living to avoid inheritance taxes and allow the next generation financial independence.

Aside from a couple of minor subplots, this debate of to divide or not to divide takes up almost the entire play. This is undoubtedly done to make a statement about money becoming a point of obsession and tearing families apart, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get tedious for the audience after a while. If you were playing a drinking game where you took a sip every time someone mentioned “dividing the estate”, you’d be dead by interval. It also takes away from time that could be used to develop the characters and their relationships – as it is, there’s a number of shady pasts and family mysteries that are alluded to but never brought to fruition. All this aside, the family’s obsession, particularly as it begins to border on absurdity, does garner plenty of laughs from the audience.

The performers began with a little too much intensity – there are precious few plays where it’s appropriate to break into hysterical rage in the first ten minutes, and this isn’t one of them – but eventually settled into a subtle simmer of tension that waxed and waned well throughout the rest of the show. The performers were well-matched and worked smoothly as an ensemble, and the decision against using accents, despite the show being set in the deep south, was a good one – there are few things more grating than two hours of bad accents.

Supported by a stately-but-not-over-the-top set and some fun ‘80s costumes and hairstyles, the show is a fun one and it’ll definitely make your family’s money squabbles seem downright unmaterialistic in comparison.