"Bedroom Farce" at Westport Playhouse

by Tom Holehan

The prolific English playwright Alan Ayckbourn has a knack for exposing the dark underbelly of miserable marriages as he’s proven in a slew of plays ranging from “How the Other Half Loves” and “Relatively Speaking” to “Time of My Life” and “Absurd Person Singular”. “Bedroom Farce” may sound like a door-slamming comedy in the manner of “Noises Off”, but it really isn’t. This is another of the playwright’s perfectly pitched comedies of bad manners that has its serious side percolating just underneath the humorous surface. It is currently in revival at the Westport Playhouse which has a history of presenting Ayckbourn’s popular works and doing justice to most.

Set in three distinct, side-by-side bedroom settings, “Bedroom Farce” introduces four couples in various states of marital bliss (and I use that word oh-so-loosely!). Long-married Delia and Ernest (a perfectly matched Cecilia Hart and Paxton Whitehead) are the parents of Trevor (Carson Elrod) whose messy marriage to Susannah (Sarah Manton) complete disrupts the party thrown by newlyweds Kate and Malcolm (Claire Karpen and Scott Drummond). When Trevor’s old girlfriend, Jan, (Nicole Lowrance) runs into Trevor at the party and ends up bringing him home to where her husband, Nick (Matthew Greer) is nursing a bad back, the farcical side of this comedy starts to develop.

But not really. “Bedroom Farce” never seemed to come to a boil on the Westport stage and this could be because director John Tillinger, who did such fine work on WCP’s previous Ayckbourn offerings, has staged a rather flat rendering of the comedy. And even when physical comedy is demanded from several of the younger actors, it all seemed forced and planned, never coming from a real place. I found myself smiling more than laughing through most of “Bedroom Farce” and growing a little weary by the middle of act two. None of this, however, takes away from the splendid cast Mr. Tillinger has gathered for this production.

To see pros like Whitehead and Hart work together is a master class in comedic timing and subtle reference. There is a lifetime of marriage represented in their performances and it’s a real pleasure to observe. As Trevor, Elrod brings a perfectly original character to full throttle in a quirky, highly entertaining performance and Manton corners the market on sad-sack Sallys who are clearly anchored to the wrong mate. The rest of the company follows suit, especially Greer whose limited blocking being confined to a bed most of the evening is a real challenge that the actor nonetheless turns to his advantage and masters effortlessly.

The scenic design by Marjorie Bradley Kellogg produces three comfy and very individual bedroom settings that work beautifully on the Westport stage and John Demous has lit them expertly. Laurie Churba hasn’t really decided on a period for the play (perhaps under director’s orders?), but her various costumes work well anyway. In all, this is a serviceable comedy with a stellar cast doing admirable ensemble work.

“Bedroom Farce” continues at the Westport Playhouse through September13. For further information and ticket reservations call 203.227.4177 or visit: www.westportplayhouse.org.

 

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