nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
October 11, 2008
A "bedroom farce" (more commonly known as "sex farce") is characterized by the interplay and sexual trysts among various combinations of characters in highly improbable plots. It is also characterized by a set consisting of a multitude of doors, all of which will, through the course of the play, be slammed shut at least once.
Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce, presented as the first offering of The Actors Company Theatre's 2008-2009 season, lacks the common trappings of typical farce: no doors to slam in Robin Vest's appealing set and it's relatively clean (no sex). Program notes comment, "Ayckbourn's characters eat, complain, argue, use the telephone, and assemble furniture, but sex is hardly mentioned."
Broad situations are mixed with seemingly realistic characters. Taking place in three separate bedrooms in three separate houses, the plot concerns four married couples. Malcolm and Kate are having a housewarming party, to which are invited their friends Jan and Nick (the latter of whom is stuck in bed with a bad back) and Trevor and Susannah (in the middle of a fight). Ernest and Delia, Trevor's parents, are also included, because it is their bedroom to which Susannah flees after she catches Trevor and Jan, a former couple, kissing. Trevor, on the other hand, spends the night with Jan and Nick, to patch things up with Nick, who he assumes will be mad that he kissed his wife.
Bedroom Farce, is not the greatest play in Ayckbourn's canon; perhaps that's why TACT's production is the first one in New York in 30-odd years. However, it's a great example of his trend of playing around with time and location. Other plays of his that bend the conventions are Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests trilogy, and House & Garden, two plays that are staged at the same time, in adjacent auditoria, with characters exiting one play and entering the other.
Jenn Thompson's brisk staging is pleasant and suitably fluffy, though glosses over the darker aspects of Ayckbourn's commentary on married life. The play itself has the feeling of a BBC Britcom to it, and Thompson plays into that, down to the music, which sounds like a generic television theme song (music by Amir Khosrowpour; sound design by Stephen Kunken).
The cast is quite strong; Scott Schafer wins the MVP award for his hilariously droll portrayal of Nick, who spends the entire show in bed. Well, most of it anyway. His maneuvering around to pick up a book with his feet, eventually landing him on the floor, is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.
Chemistry is very apparent in the entire group and you do buy into the fact that a couple like Delia and Ernest, played by Cynthia Harris (one of TACT's artistic directors) and Larry Keith, have been married for quite some time; or that Malcolm and Kate (Sean Dougherty and Ashley West) still have the happy delusion of the perfect marriage.
All said, it's a fun afternoon or evening, and you don't have to analyze it afterwards to figure out what went on. We need one of those every now and then.