New York City. A book launch by some hot author guy. But we’re on the balcony with self-help writer Renata and Declan, her partner and father of their infant child. He can’t stand the smoking. She can’t stand … well, just about everything.

Next a phone call, and Renata (Ainslie McGlynn) is floored – literally – by some bad news: her birth mother, with whom she has had no contact, has died. The funeral will be held in Darwin.

Zoe Jensen and Leilani Loau in Darwin’s Reptilia. Photo © Phil Erbacher

Renata decides to attend the ceremony, which is to be hosted by a third-rate Darwin motel whose surrounds are infested with crocodiles. Once you’re in, there’s no safe way out. Once you’re out, chances are you won’t get back in alive.

Written by Sydney playwright Charlie Falkner and directed by Samantha Young, Darwin’s Reptilia is an immediately engaging comedy that starts strongly and bubbles along for 90-odd minutes without flagging in the slightest. Falkner’s characters are sharply defined and diverse. His honed dialogue is delivered with flair and heart by a very adept cast.

McGlynn is pitch perfect as the writer mired in professional ennui and postpartum blues. Danny Ball is very funny as the manic Declan. Mathew Lee is delightful as a puppyish fanboy John, who puts Renata’s published advice into practice by stealthily following her to Darwin.

Danny Ball and Mathew Lee in Darwin’s Reptilia. Photo © Phil Erbacher

The NT end of the story is placed in the very capable hands of Leilani Loau (hilarious as Bobbi, the motel manager) and Flick (Zoe Jensen), Bobbi’s narcoleptic employee.

As with all 25a productions, the budget is a skinny one (just $1500 is allowed to be spent – and that’s on everything), but designer Ruth Arnold, lighting designer Saint Clair and sound designer/composer Hewett Cook make a little go a long way.

Good fun. Go see.

Darwin’s Reptilia plays in the Downstairs Theatre, Belvoir, Surry Hills until 26 November.

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