This comedy (no farce) is about the shaky marriage of Nick and Jan, the relatively calm marriage of Malcolm and Kate, the rather comfy (though terribly dull) marriage of an older couple Ernest and Delia (Trevor's mother and father-in-law), and the shattered marriage of two neurotics, Trevor and Susannah. The play tells what happens one evening in the bedrooms and double beds of the first three of these four pairs.
It's a familiar Ayckbourn concoction: the dull, English middle-class marriage and sex, and the relationships of shallow, relatively dull, inadequate, often clumsy English middle-class people -- a sort of English Neil Simon brew, though lacking that dramatist's shrill, confrontational style. The elder couple is likable: the husband an old duffer, the wife, supportive and understanding; it's quite endearing when they enjoy pilchards and toast in bed as a late-night snack. And the audience can also like poor Nick, too, confined to bed with a leg injury; and his not-too-sympathetic wife, Jan; and the pleasant young couple Malcolm and Kate; and the exasperating Trevor and Susannah, who seem incapable of getting through an evening, let alone a life, and who upset the shaky balance of the others' lives, focusing attention on their sex lives and fear of losing virility and attractiveness.
The fun and games of the evening are driven by Trevor and Susannah's demands on the others and the fact that they are two people barely able to function socially. In fact, Trevor is a sort of middle class English Inspector Clouzot, clumsy, inept, and obnoxious, and Susannah spends much of her time repeating, "I am not unattractive, people can like me," etc. etc.
All this would make for a very amusing evening if the play moved at great speed and the characters strove for realistic performances, bringing out the sadness that is underneath most of Ayckbourn's limited characters. Unfortunately, some of the play, and one of the key actors, was directed in a way that mixed realism, English understatement, and clownish posturing, and lacked the necessary breakneck speed. This was most notably the case with Trevor (Roy Blum), who was not just a Wodehousian "silly ass" here but went beyond Clouzot, as a grinning and posturing, even insane, boor. His wife (Elyse Knight) did somewhat better, bringing out all her insecurities and fears. As the older couple, Jeremy Johnson and Sigrum Omark portrayed their "chummy marriage" quite well; John Kooi was fine as Nick (his scene when he falls out of bed trying to reclaim his book was the funniest moment of the play, which does have a few such moments). Deborah Thomas did good work as his wife, Jan.
The best performances, though, were by Laura Tietjen (Kate) and Marc Palmieri (Malcolm). These two actors were sympathetic and charming; they displayed the natural touch, and their scenes moved very well. They, with John Kooi, were also the most "English." The set design, by Salvatore Tagliarino, with three bedrooms with double beds, costumes (uncredited), and lighting design (Geoffrey Sherman) were all quite adequate.
Copyright 1996 Dudley Stone
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