The plot? That’s Spanish playwright Lope de Vega’s, from his La Dama Boba (circa 1613), adapted for this Sydney Theatre Company 2024 season opener by Van Badham.

The setting? The far north coast of New South Wales. Land of golf clubs, new money palazzos, cashed-up influencers and desperate opportunists.

The vibe? Pure Barbie. Like, hunnardpercent!

Contessa Treffone in A Fool in Love. Photo © Daniel Boud

Badham (Banging Denmark) spins a mix of barbed wire and fairy floss from de Vega’s story of sibling beauties whose father, Otavio, is hoping to marry off to whoever can stand them for more than five minutes at a stretch.

Older sister Vanessa (played by Melissa Kahraman) is a poet-influencer with a stratospherically high opinion of her own superiority. Younger sister Phynayah (Contessa Treffone) is an utter dill, and whom an absent uncle has promised to shower with riches if she marries before her 30th birthday. If she doesn’t, uncle’s moolah goes to a donkey festival somewhere in Spain.

Otavio (Johnny Nasser) is in debt up to the eyeballs and as far as he is concerned, just about anything with a pulse will do for a husband. But can the suitors accept what’s on offer?

Johnny Nasser, Alfie Gledhill and Aaron Tsindos in A Fool in Love. Photo © Daniel Boud

Directed by Kenneth Moraleda with campery and comic telegraphy to the fore, A Fool in Love finds its groove early, but – somewhat frustratingly – becomes stuck in it for the duration; a weighty-seeming two-and-a-half hours with interval.

Moraleda has cast the piece with some reliable comic talent and rising STC favourites, but the show’s expressive palette – big facial reactions, Insta-poses, funny walks and f-bombs – is already wearing thin at least 30 minutes prior to the break, and in Badham’s treatment, the story’s twist isn’t enough to entirely carry us through the inevitable-seeming tie-ups to come.

Contessa Treffone and Megan Wilding in A Fool in Love. Photo © Daniel Boud

That said, Treffone is terrific as Phynayah, investing completely in her character’s outlandish idiocy. Megan Wilding (whose casting indicates that STC isn’t prone to holding grudges) does similarly excellent work as Phynayah’s enabling bestie. Her costume are a hoot.

Kahraman struts and pouts very effectively as Vanessa. Aaron Tsindos and Arkia Ashraf do everything required of them – and a bit more for good measure – as the principal suitors, Western Sydney boys of sharply contrasting temperament.

Johnny Nasser is a winningly flamboyant presence as Otavio. Playing a love-stricken musician, Alfie Gledhill’s live Baker St serenade on alto sax is a cute surprise in a show that could probably do with a few more.

A Fool in Love plays in the Wharf 1 Theatre, Walsh Bay until 17 March.

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