nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
July 30, 2008
This evening of selections from Intimate Exchanges by prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn is brought to the Midtown Festival courtesy of England's Next Stage Theater Company, a company of which Ayckbourn is a patron. The press material says that there is actually a series of 32 interrelated plays containing optional endings and peopled with a variety of characters, all of whom are played by just two actors. This allows a sumptuous opportunity for the actors involved.
For this presentation, three of the scenes have been selected that involve a housewife named Celia, who is at a static point in her middle-aged marriage to the stodgy Toby. She is wooed by the randy groundskeeper Lionel, who is also dating the feisty housekeeper, Sylvie. Celia and Sylvie are played by Kay Francksen and Toby and Lionel by Andrew Ellison. Ayckbourn's dialogue is lively and humorous as we watch each actor struggle with life choices onstage for just enough time for the other actor to be making a quick change and pop back out as the their alternate character. It makes me want to read all the rest in the series.
Director Ann Garner makes full use of the theater space, and both actors do a nice job of transitioning back and forth between characters, though at the performance I saw the pacing was a bit slow and there were a lot of pauses between lines in the first few scenes. Francksen especially creates a nice contrast of age and energy in her two characters. And it was a joy not to worry about authentic British dialects!
Although no one is credited with the simple set, costume, and sound design choices, I thought that they suited the festival situation very well, and the lighting design by Kris Nuttall is well executed.