Enter laughing

Bedroom Farce

By Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Ted Thompson
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street, Brooklyn (718/595-0547)
Equity showcase (closes September 21)
Review by Jenny Sandman

Park Slope isn't exactly known for theatre -- especially near the 4th Avenue F train stop -- but it's old news that the Gallery Players have set up a successful residence there -- this year with a full season of eight shows, the first being Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce.

Written in 1975, Bedroom Farce is the story of four British couples. It's a British farce of the most frantic sort -- like Noises Off, but in three different bedrooms. Trevor and Susannah are having serious problems with their marriage; the lynchpin of the play, their relationship seems doomed. They decide --independently of each other -- to talk it over with their mutual friends. Naturally, their friends get caught in the middle. Malcolm and Kate are newlyweds and are throwing a housewarming party. Both Trevor and Susannah show up at the party and start arguing. Meanwhile, Nick has thrown out his back and is bedridden; his wife, Jan (Trevor's ex-fiancee), puts in a brief appearance at the same party. Jan attempts to comfort Trevor, and he mistakes this for a move. When he kisses her, Susannah walks in, and all hell breaks loose.

Trevor's parents, Delia and Ernest, are enjoying a quiet night at home when Susannah shows up in the middle of the night, looking for advice. They must comfort her, while Trevor goes to Nick and Jan's house in an attempt to apologize to Nick for kissing his wife. Malcolm and Kate begin fighting in the aftermath of the doomed party, and inevitably, all the squabbling disintegrates into a series of very late-night phone calls. In the end (predictably) love conquers all, and Trevor and Susannah decide to try again.

The performances were all solid and accurate, if a little one-dimensional. Trevor (Daniel Damiano) seemed too dimwitted to be causing such trouble. Malcolm (Alex Domeyko) was the most energetic; he and Kate (Inga R. Wilson) were the only couple that appeared to have any actual chemistry. Delia (Dolores Kenan) was a strong and stable presence. Her husband, Ernest (Michael Janove), was a likeable, bumbling old fool, but his accent was way over the top. Susannah (Nichole Allen) was high-strung and strident, while Nick (D.H. Johnson) was a grumpy terror, driving Jan (Amy L. Smith) to distraction.

Director Ted Thompson kept the action moving, at least. The theatre itself was a fine space, a spacious, shallow stage that was divided into three bedrooms, one on a raised platform. The bedrooms were strangely devoid of decoration, but otherwise the set (Brian J. Massolini) was quite lovely. The costumes (Kathleen Leary) were colorful, but some of the dresses looked as if they didn't fit quite right.

It's a broad romantic comedy, funny and heartwarming, but unfortunately it feels dated at this point. It's also irretrievably British, and the jokes don't always translate for an American audience. The actors seemed to be all trying to fit British stereotypes (and do British accents), which didn't really work. It seemed almost as if the actors were still trying to figure out their relationships; the chemistry wasn't there yet, so they were not entirely convincing as couples. A faster pace would have helped; the forward movement lagged in places, which can be the kiss of death for physical comedy.

But the pacing and chemistry issues were the sort that are usually worked out with a few performances. Overall, it was a pleasant evening of light entertainment. British humor, so often deadpan and tongue-in-cheek, can also be shamelessly -- well, silly. These days, lighthearted silliness can be a rare find.

 Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Jenny Sandman