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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Intimate Exchanges Yields Hearty Laughs for Two Vets at ACT Theatre

Also see David's review of The Little Dog Laughed

Intimate Exchanges
R. Hamilton Wright and
Marianne Owen 

Marianne Owen and R. Hamilton Wright are two Seattle-based veteran actors who have earned MVP (Most Valuable Performer) status over the years. Comfortable in comedy or drama, they give dependably laudable, professional performances time and time again. And sometimes inspired ones, as in the torrents of tomfoolery that cascade across the stage in Kurt Beattie's swift footed staging of Alan Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges at ACT Theatre.

Ayckbourn wrote this veddy British but not inaccessible British farce to have a possible 16 different permutations. Beattie wisely thought Owen and Wright should have to handle only eight of them (while each playing three characters). The version I saw on opening night was amusing to begin with and gut-bustingly funny by the end, that's all I know.

Owen takes on a pissy (and ultimately unbalanced) housewife named Celia, Celia's housekeeper Sylvie, and dowager deluxe Irene, while Wright plays Celia's handyman Lionel, her husband Toby, and an old codger named Miles. In the version I saw, the hilarity built to a key scene in which Celia and Lionel's foray into a catering business results in a gastronomic catastrophe. In this scene alone, Owen was astonishing charting Celia gradually becoming totally unglued as Lionel's lack of cooking skills and preparation ruin her dreams of glory as a caterer. A quick change by the actress into the character of Irene, a Margaret Dumontish harridan with a positively frightening laugh, is so funny you think Owen can't top it, but hang on, because Celia's disintegration leads to a solo mad tea party scene that is of the caliber that earns actors awards. Wright's characters are smashing as well, but in this version, at least, it was Owens who stole the show.

Marcia Dixcy Jory outfits the actors in distinct and amusing costumes, Thomas Lynch's spare but ingenious set is most accomplished, and Mary Louise Geiger's lighting design is fluid and complementary.

I still hope to see one of the other twists on Intimate Exchanges during its run, but I can happily confess that I would be just as happy to re-visit the opening night version. It was a ripping good time and a chance to celebrate two of the best actors in town.

Intimate Exchanges runs trough September 14 at Act Theatre, 700 Union St in downtown Seattle. For additional information visit www.acttheatre.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David Edward Hughes



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