Life in the suburbs
Written by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Ann Garner
Presented by Next Stage Theatre Company (www.next-stage.co.uk)
In association with Love Arm'd Productions (www.lovearmd.com)
Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
Equity showcase (through
Review by David Mackler
There’s nothing terribly outstanding about any of the characters in an Alan Ayckbourn play. They’re not heroic in the classic sense, and their tragedies won’t affect the future of their country. But Ayckbourn brings these ordinary folks to the front and center, showing off their likeable qualities and their pettiness, and (bless him) showing their recognizable humanness as comic. Not to them, of course, but to the audience. Ayckbourn is often compared to Neil Simon, but that misstates the case – with Simon, the jokes are funny. With Ayckbourn the characters are funny.
In its full form, Intimate Exchanges is 8 plays with 10 characters, played by two actors. The plays are interconnected, and have alternate endings. At the MITF, Next Stage presented what they call “Scenes from,” and it’s enough to give a full sense and flavor, but stingy enough to leave you wondering what’s going on in other rooms. Because the way Ayckbourn structures his plays, the most mundane event or throwaway business will add a layer of meaning later on. So when Celia (Kay Francksen) has a conversation with Lionel (Andrew Ellison) who’s working in her garden, and sex talk gets mixed in with redecorating the flower beds, attention must be paid to the conversation as well as the interaction between them. And when he talks about a date with Sylvie, it’s not just to pass the time.
Yet at the same time, it’s all real. Celia’s got something on her mind here, just
as she does in the second act when she’s on a rest/vacation with her husband
Toby (Ellison). And the situations are
real as well – the vacation at what Toby calls a “geriatric
Of course, it isn’t real at all. And “Scenes from” is just a taste of Intimate Exchanges. That said, Ayckbourn is not to everyone’s taste. But while sushi isn’t to everyone’s taste either, once you’re into it there’s always room for more.
Copyright 2008 by David Mackler
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