There’s no mistaken identity and no slamming doors in Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce at the Westport Country Playhouse. This is in spite of the fact that there are doors in three distinctly different bedrooms complete with beds and accessories on stage. This comedy is pleasant entertainment, but there’s not much laughter.
Under John Tillinger’s subtle hand, this play has a mixture of poignant and funny moments as it looks at four marriages. Each marriage represents a different age group as well as a different attitude towards marriage.
The action takes place over one night and one early morning. One character, Trevor, played appropriately frenetically by Carson Elrod, is involved in the other three marriages more than his own. He and his wife Susannah, played by Sarah Manton, are not getting along. They have been arguing passionately and word has spread that they can’t be near each other without causing a raucous.
Trevor is the son of Ernest and Delia. They are the oldest couple. Their marriage is a comfortable one. It is so comfortable that at the end of an evening they get a kick out of having “pilchards on toast” in bed. They heard that Trevor and Susannah were having problems and would be attending the house-warming party for Kate and Malcolm. The contented older couple hopes that they won’t be bothered by Trevor or Susannah. They especially are not fond of Susannah and preferred Trevor’s former girlfriend Jan, who was also invited to the house warming party.
Kate and Malcolm are still in the romantic love phase of their marriage. Still, Kate’s mind wanders when they’re having sex and Malcolm keeps sex-inspired magazines in his sock drawer. Nonetheless, they both want to please each other. They are hoping that Trevor and Susannah will not both show up and ruin their party.
Nick and Jan seem to have settled for each other and have a marriage that is less than stellar. Nonetheless it works for them. They too have been invited to the party, but since Nick has thrown out his back and is in terrible pain, Jane opts to go to the party alone. She knows that her former boyfriend Trevor will be there and she looks forward to seeing him.
All the possibilities for a disastrous situation are in place and of course, Trevor and Susannah arrive separately at the party and create enough havoc to destroy the party. Everything gets quite complicated, but Ayckbourn has a way of turning the many challenges of marriage into a naturally good thing.
Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s three-bedroom set reflects the personalities and ages of the couples. Each room is very different from the others, one elaborate, one with wallpaper half hung and one ultra modern. The set works well because John Demous’s lighting design, which is crucial to highlighting the room where the action takes place is perfectly synchronized. Scott Killian’s sound design also accents the action.
The couples are well cast with excellent performances by Paxton Whitehead and Cecilia Hart as the mature couple. Whitehead’s performance as Ernest is quite good and he does earn laughs from the thoroughly entertained audience. When he has to move into the guest room, his genuine displeasure becomes the audience’s pleasure. Each actor does have a time to shine and they all do so brilliantly.
The cast includes: Carson Elrod as Trevor, who is quite amazing and earns most of the laughter. He has the gift of perfect comic timing. Also in the cast are Sarah Manton as Susannah, Nicole Lowrance as Jan, Claire Karpen as Kate, Matthew Greer as Nick, and Scott Drummond as Malcolm.
This may not be a traditional slam-the-door-and-the-chase-is-on type of farce, but it is a delightful end of summer entertainment.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]