By Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Janis Powell
Set Design: Tal Goldin
Lighting Design: Peter Hoerburger
Production Manager: Jarid Sumner
Production Coordinator: Sarah Winton
Stage Manager: Rich Johnson
Costume Coordinator: Fiona Macys
Fight Choreographer: David Shoup
Dialect Coach: Page Clements
Starring: Gwendolyn Brown as Delia, Ed Franklin as Ernest, Morgan Foxworth as Nick, Allyson Ryan as Jan,
David Shoup as Malcolm, Hillary Parker as Kate,
Todd Reichart as Trevor, and Donna Abraham as Susannah
T. Schreiber Studio
151 West 26th Street, 7th Floor
Artistic Director: Terry Schreiber; Managing Director: Annarita Gardinella; Management Associate: Sarah Winton
Publicity: Joe Trentacosta, Springer/Chicoine Public Relations
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 30, 2003
The T. Schreiber Studio, established in 1969, is involved in training and developing actors and has an ongoing season of challenging plays that support the actors in the incipient stages of their careers. The faculty is made up of veteran actors and professionals, under the guidance of Terry Schreiber, who create unique teaching methods for each theatrical trainee. The Faculty members are Betty Buckley, Sally Dunn, Julie Garfield, Peter Jensen, David Matthew Prior, Peter Miner, Carol Reynolds, Terry Schreiber, Pamela Scott, and Lynne Singer. (Program Notes).
This production, set onstage with three bedrooms, divided by interesting walls and unique decorations, with the lights dimming or brightening on each bedroom as the action switches from one of the four couples to another, or from one member of the couple to another bedroom. In fact, the bedrooms are the scenes of the plot, which is a about the difficulties of sustaining relationships and interrelationships between men and women and somewhat between adult children and parents. These fun-filled and not so dramatic scenes are contagiously engaging, as dysfunctional characters test the patience and desires of their partners, as well as the objects of their desires. In one case, one object was even a bookcase, with missing parts and obscure directions, perhaps a metaphor for the inherent need for order amidst domestic chaos.
The four couples in this sometimes fragmented, but often funny play were: one older couple in the left bedroom, with a wife from the old school and a highly dedicated and seasoned husband in pajamas, who liked snacks and books in bed with his wife; one physically hyper couple who sprayed each other with cream and left his shoes beneath the pillows, who were the hosts of an aborted party; one couple in which the husband had chronic, bedridden back pain and in which the wife was emotionally frustrated and interested in the husband of the fourth couple; and the fourth couple, who did not have their own bedroom, but who appeared and re-appeared in the other three bedrooms, since the husband was the son of the older couple on the left, and he was enamored of the wife of the couple on the right and dependent on the host couple in the middle, and his sniffling, whining wife was dependent on her in-laws on the left and the host couple in the middle.
This sounds confusing and perhaps unwieldy, but Ayckbourn has created a farce in the style of Moliere and Feydeau, with the appearance and disappearance of men and women through doors and opening in furniture and walls. The difference here is that Moliere and Feydeau were masters at bedroom farces, and sex was always suggested and assumed to be occurring offstage. However, Ayckbourn has not included the suggested presence of sex, but rather unrequited anxieties and missed opportunities, even as the older couple tries to have an anniversary in bed, and even as the middle wife tries to woo her husband from the engineering feat of furniture building.
Donna Abraham, as the needy, teary-eyed Susannah, whose domestic fights disrupt each of the three occupants of the bedroom, has excellent presence and draws us into her plight. Todd Reichart, as her husband Trevor, plays the annoying, ambivalent, and unwanted intruder with the right touch of dysfunction. Morgan Foxworth, as Nick, the bedridden hypochondriac, is adorable. Allyson Ryan, as his wife, Jan, achieves the necessary tightness and coldness of temper for this role. Gwendolyn Brown and Ed Franklin, as the older couple, have the level of compatibility and emotional intimacy to convince us of their domestic maturity. David Shoup and Hillary Parker, the middle and party host couple, Malcolm and Kate, were a bit too hyper, too campy, but, then again, Moliere and Feydeau characters were also over-actors, to draw the audience into the absurdities and surprises.
In fact, a few more surprises would have been in order for this play to be a first rate farce. I would suggest to Mr. Ayckbourn to study a bit more the traditional French farce structure and to add the wild and wanton to his future creations, in order to develop the layers of uninterrupted humor and the elements of the unexpected. However, I found the British work, Bedroom Farce, enjoyable, and it was a joy to discover the T. Schreiber Studio on West 26th Street.
Upcoming Play: Landscape of the Body, By John Guare, January 29, 2004 – February 22, 2004. ("A revealing and affecting study of the American Dream gone awry.")