Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol
Also see Fred's review of Red Velvet
Ernest (Paxton Whitehead) is worried about leakage from the ceiling into a nearby guest room in his house. He also recommends that he and longtime wife Delia (Cecilia Hart) sample some toast and sardinesin their bed! Call this pair an unqualified hoot.
Their son Trevor (Carson Elrod) is raggedy, loud, seemingly dysfunctional and coupled with Susannah (Sarah Manton). We never see their bedroom but we learn, from her first appearance on stage, that Susannah is, in general, insecure and not all that pleased with her physical appearance.
The center stage bedroom (half wallpapered) belongs to Malcolm (Scott Drummond) and Kate (Claire Karpen). He is prone to outbursts and has a time of it trying to put together a new table utilizing a kit. She admits that she is a tad boredwith him, with herself. Despite it all, these two are tossing a party and Trevor has been invited.
Prone and in his bed (stage left) is Nick (Matthew Greer), whose back pain has left him pretty much immobilized. When he tumbles out of bed, he cannot lift himself back. If his wife Jan (Nicole Lowrance) shifts his position, Nick yelps in agony. It becomes clear that Jan, however, was first involved with, of all people, the disheveled Trevor.
The adroit director John Tillinger (with many credits at WCP, on Broadway, and elsewhere) prods the performers (with requisite energy but not blinding speed) through many turns on the given Saturday evening, the time assigned by Ayckbourn.
Those looking for physical, boisterous sequences will find them within Bedroom Farce but, really, this plays shows and tells far more than its surface. The first expository hour is witty and pleasant as various couples are introduced. The second portion, though, gives notice that three of the four twosomes are experiencing some problem which could be either minor or more cosmic in nature.
Jan, demonstrably, retains passionate feelings for Trevor, who is more a person when around her rather than his other barely functioning self. Nick, when not shrieking due to spinal difficulty, actually does hope that his relationship with Jan survives. Kate is a young, attractive woman who seeks to be fulfilled. She wishes not to hurt Malcolm but she is wondering about the potential of their marriage.
During the second act, Susannah appears at Delia and Ernest's flat. She ends up sleeping in the main bedroom next to Delia while Ernest is assigned the guest area (unseenbut disposed to the ceiling water threat). The scene is sometimes quite hilarious and also moving. Susannah is a woman attempting to find and hold her identity. Her self-esteem is low and she is not at all certain about Trevor.
This Bedroom Farce juxtaposes the simply comic with the complex realities of lives. Only Ernest and Delia are free to act out, to enjoy, to divert, to be themselves without fear that their marriage is about to implode.
Designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg effectively opens the stage with her neatly situated bedrooms. Tillinger allows the ensemble to release at certain times while otherwise coaxing impressive moment-to-moment sequences. The casting choices are excellent and each of these actors distinguishes individually. The subtext resting beneath the humor but which is also unveiled, at times, distinguishes this Ayckbourn. Those wishing for nonstop slapstick will not find it here. As one who has seen more than a few Alan Ayckbourn plays, here is a confession that it is possible or probable to lose trackof titles, plots, and so forth. More importantly, he effectively probes beneath his characters' exteriors with an enviable combination of dialogue writing and interface of vignettes.
Bedroom Farce continues at Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, Connecticut, through September 13th, 2015. For tickets, call (203) 227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org.
- Fred Sokol