Presented by The Huntington Theatre Company
By Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Maria Aitken
November 11-December 11, 2016
BU Theatre at The Huntington Theatre Company
The Huntington Theatre Company on
Review by Travis Manni
(Boston, MA) Usually, I’m a sucker for anything British, especially accents and that special brand of English humor. Both passions, as well as the potential for bedroom antics, were just a couple reasons I was excited to attend a performance of English playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce. But by the end of the show I was disappointed to realize that the accents were the only British thing about it and the bedroom humor was rather lazy at best.
Bedroom Farce focuses on the lives of four couples as told through scenes played out in three of their bedrooms. Kate (Emma Kaye) and Malcolm (Richard Hollis) have decided to throw a housewarming party, but quickly regret it when Trevor (Karl Miller) and Susannah (Katie Paxton), a miserably married couple that cannot seem to agree on anything, cause a scene and ruin the whole evening.
To make matters worse, Trevor kisses his ex-lover Jan (Mahira Kakkar), who left her husband Nick (Nael Nacer) home on bedrest due to back pain, in a moment of weakness. When Susannah sees the two together, she goes ape-shit and storms out. In an attempt to atone, Trevor travels back and forth between houses and apologizes to the various parties to win back Susannah and start fresh.
One of Bedroom Farce’s biggest faults is that its more interesting and entertaining couple, Delia (Patricia Hodges) and Ernest (Malcolm Ingram), an older and married set-in-their-ways type, feel utterly unnecessary in telling the show’s overarching story. The humor of Bedroom Farce also relies too heavily on the circumstances that its characters find themselves in and doesn’t have any clever punch lines. In fact, as the play progressed I realized that the entire show felt more like an overlong episode of a sitcom rather than a professionally staged comedy. Farce though it may be, it was not an inventive one.
Ironically, I did enjoy that the majority of the characters in this show were unlikeable. Nick comes off as overly dramatic, while wife Jan is an impatient partner who lacks compassion. And while Nick’s behavior appears to warrant Jan’s, they were both portrayed as very stubborn and irritable people. In the volatile marriage corner, Susannah lacks confidence and is immature, while her husband Trevor is both impulsive and socially unaware, doing whatever he pleases without regard for those around him. They both became so frustrating to watch on stage that by the end I was rooting for the end of their marriage.
Though the characters themselves were deplorable, all of the actors in this show were as witty as they could be with the material they were given. As I said, the script wasn’t particularly smart, but each person was able to take control of their character and give them moments that kept the audience engaged and interested in seeing what would happen next.
Alexander Dodge’s scenic design was also a nice treat. Even before the show started, it was fun to examine the different bedrooms—one with expensive looking wallpaper, another with half-painted walls—and get a sense for the types of couples that lived in each flat. As Delia says at one point in the show, “You can tell a lot about someone from their bedroom.” Alexander’s design perfectly encapsulated this idea, allowing the audience to guess at how far along each relationship was and begin the show’s story telling before it even started.
While Bedroom Farce isn’t a shrewd comedy, it did have me laughing. There was a decent amount of well-handled slapstick, and though many of the characters aren’t relateable, it was fun watching them interact with each other and struggle with the complexities of being in a relationship.
We have elected a tangerine ass-bugle bigot with scrawny hands and terrible hair to the office of the President. The theatre community has every reason to be scared that the national budget for the arts will be slashed. It will be. Certain republicans tend to disrespect experimental, avant-garde, or simply new art. If it challenges the white, straight, hetero status quo, they tend to be against it. New things frighten them with their difference. Belts will need to be tightened. For the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating your art despite this painful bullshit. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. Please keep fighting the good fight. – KD
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