Regional Reviews: Boston
Also see Josh's recent review of How Soft the Lining
What a treat to spend two hours in the company of these characters whose every word is a gem from a delightful wordsmith. Under the sparkling direction of Maria Aitken (who played Susannah in the 1977 London premiere directed by Ayckbourn), the eight actors form a seamless ensemble, each fully inhabiting their individual character without sacrificing the establishment of realistic relationships with their stage partner and friends. Many of the situations they face are mundane, such as choosing a dress for an evening out or figuring out how to assemble a do-it-yourself project, but Ayckbourn finds the ridiculous in them and the actors are off and running.
The action takes place in three bedrooms on one Saturday night. First up, Ernest (Malcolm Ingram) and Delia (Patricia Hodges), the eldest of the three couples, prep for their anniversary dinner at a fancy restaurant. He is the stiff upper lip variety Brit, but not without a droll sense of humor, while she is a bit more insightful. Their conversation revolves around a leaky roof in their Victorian home and the leaky marriage of their son Trevor (Karl Miller) and Susannah (Katie Paxton). Traversing the set, the next room, in the midst of renovations, is the site of a housewarming party hosted by Malcolm (Richard Hollis) and Kate (Emma Kaye), a younger and definitely more frisky couple. The third room houses self-obsessed Nick (Nael Nacer), confined to bed with a back ailment, and his independent wife Jan (Mahira Kakkar), who also happens to be Trevor's ex-girlfriend.
Bedroom Farce is actually less farce than comedy and, perhaps surprisingly, doesn't have any sex. Oh, there are a few chaste kisses, and numerous inferences and references, but most of them are about the infrequency or lack of sex in any of the marriages. The bedrooms serve other functions: Ernest and Delia cozy up in bed with pilchards on toast, Malcolm and Kate playfully hide each other's possessions under the covers, and Nick tries to evoke attention and sympathy from Jan while propped against pillows under the eiderdown. Trevor and Susannah flit between the rooms, separately or together, lamenting the woeful state of their relationship to anyone within earshot.
It doesn't seem like much happens, but the comedy is character-driven and the complications that ariseor that they create for themselvesare consistently funny and often hysterical. When the lights are on bedroom #3, don't look away or you might miss a snippet of Nacer's brilliant physical comedy. For that matter, try not to look away at all because every member of this cast uses facial expressions and body language to convey more humor than what can be construed by words alone.
Alexander Dodge's scenic design visually differentiates the lifestyles of the three couples, and having the trio of rooms adjacent to each other on the stage allows us to keep all of them in our sights even when the action occurs elsewhere. As the scene moves from one room to another, lighting designer Matthew Richards plays an important role in shifting our attention, sometimes just for a moment. Costume designer Robert Morgan attires each of the couples with consideration to their age and class. Sound design and original music are provided by John Gromada. Kudos to dialect coach Stephen Gabis for spot on accents across the board.
Written in 1975, Bedroom Farce remains relevant, as the game of love hasn't changed all that much. It looks at relationships at different stages in life and hits the nail on the head at every turn. The Huntington Theatre Company has a team that knows what it's doing and gives us a fresh, funny production. If you've been lying around with the covers pulled over your head, this is a great excuse to leave the house.
Bedroom Farce, performances through December 11, 2016, at Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-266-0800 or www.huntingtontheatre.org.
Written by Alan Ayckbourn, Directed by Maria Aitken; Scenic Design, Alexander Dodge; Costume Design, Robert Morgan; Lighting Design, Matthew Richards; Sound Design & Original Music, John Gromada; Dialect Coach, Stephen Gabis; Fight Director, Ted Hewlett; Production Stage Manager, Emily F. McMullen; Stage Manager, Kevin Schlagle
Cast: Malcolm Ingram, Patricia Hodges, Nael Nacer, Mahira Kakkar, Richard Hollis, Emma Kaye, Karl Miller, Katie Paxton