IF THERE’S TROUBLE, IT STARTS RIGHT HERE: IN THE BEDROOM
by Harvey Perr
published October 17, 2008
now playing Off Broadway at the Beckett Theater on Theater Row
through November 8
The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) is back on track with their smart, attractive, dolefully droll revival of one of the great Alan
Ayckbourne’s more civilized comedies of angst, Bedroom Farce.
In this outing, Trevor (Mark Alhadeff) and Susannah (Eve Bianco), married but in a state of serious freefall, wreak havoc on three
other couples in the course of one long evening that takes place in three separate bedrooms, none of which belong to the couple around whom
the action revolves. That fact alone should tell you something about how Ayckbourne feels about the precariousness of some contemporary
There’s Ernest (Larry Keith) and Delia (Cynthia Harris), Trevor’s parents, celebrating their own anniversary, very much set in
their ways, prepared for little but some pilchards before bed and a long slumber afterwards, and who are in no way prepared to deal with an
uninvited guest, the daughter-in-law whom they, to tell the truth, never much cared for. There’s Jan (Margaret Nichols), the woman who used
to go with Trevor, and whom his parents preferred, who is now married to Nick (Scott Schafer), who sprained his back and cannot move and
therefore cannot go with Jan to a party being given by Malcom (Sean Dougherty) and Kate (Ashley West) to celebrate their new and still
unfinished home. It is at their party (and in their bedroom, the smallest of the three bedrooms Robin Vest has managed with consummate
skill to squeeze onto the stage of the Beckett Theatre) that it becomes clear that Trevor and Jan still have some unresolved feelings
towards each other, which Trevor is more than willing to succumb to, since his own marriage is going sour, due in large part to the fact
that Susannah doesn’t have much, shall we say, self-esteem. Got all that? Although Ayckbourne has been called the British Neil Simon, he
doesn’t fill the air with well-aimed jokes as Simon does, but circumnavigates the terrain, slowly building to a crescendo of hilarity, in
which every character reveals something about her/himself that is, more often than not, downright poignant.
A good deal of this works only if the actors can explore with equal ease the comic business and the darker insights, and this is
where TACT’s game cast succeeds handily. Alhadeff is particularly winning as the self-absorbed Trevor, a little goofy and more than a little sad. Keith and Harris bring to
the elderly couple a comfortable grace and warts-showing dignity that is irresistible. And Shafer, stuck in bed, trying to get a book at
the foot of the bed, and, in his attempt to do so, performs an epic bit of physical comedy that provides us with what is probably this production’s funniest single moment.
Jenn Thompson’s intelligent direction doesn’t totally disguise some of
the carpentry of Ayckboune’s technique nor does it achieve any great theatrical highs, but it does, nonetheless, create a thoroughly
delightful way to spend two hours with some people you may not necessarily want to admit you recognize.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com