Veteran playwright Richard Lay (Going to Bordeaux, Bed and Breakfast), with more than 50 plays to his credit, struck again with his latest creation, The Oboe Player.
Brooder, a shy, inept oboe player, falls for Blossom, a worldly, vivacious American actress, after his friend bills him as the "second-best oboe player in Britain." She entertains the flirtation with him mostly as a trivial amusement, but he’s fallen deeply in love and can’t sever the attachment as easily as she would like. He’s inexperienced with women, and doesn’t understand that she was merely playing with him. Turns out she has more up her sleeve than anyone originally thought.
It’s a witty, poignant play, more about human foibles (with some pithy observations about actors and acting) than it is about the relationship between Brooder and Blossom. Lay’s writing is crisp at times, but lax at others, and the potential of this play sometimes seems tantalizingly close. Ultimately, though, the structure bogs down the story. The best plays about two people are about those two people confronting and dealing with one another -- The Oboe Player is more about others talking about those two people. The few scenes between Brooder and Blossom are overshadowed by scenes between Brooder and his friend, Blossom and her friend, and Brooder’s friend confronting Blossom.
Martin Ewens played Brooder, with Sarah Lemp as Blossom and Phil Burke as Nutter, Brooder’s stateside buddy. Though they needed to slow down and enunciate, the actors were fresh and energetic. They showed excellent comic timing, though ensemble acting skills were lacking as a whole. Director Simcha Borenstein concentrated more on individual character development than on developing the relationships between characters, which were more important to the story.
Overall, it was a charming (if lightweight) offering. Given Lay’s theatrical productivity, though, it shouldn’t be a long wait for his next play.
Also starring Sofia Hames and Ben Allebone.
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Copyright 2004 Jenny Sandman