Eclipse Theatre presents BEDROOM FARCE, the second offering in their Sir Alan Ayckbourn season. Eclipse’s mission is one playwright – one season.
Four couples. Three bedrooms. Two estranged. One party. Ayckbourn debuted his comedy in 1975. The play calls for the stage to be divided into three separate bedrooms in three different houses. Set Designer Mike Winkelman and Props Designer Beth Golemo illustrate the distinct personality of the inhabitants with style choices on beds, phones, dressing tables and paint colors. Even before the play starts, the set establishes characters. We’re in the houses of three different couples all connected by a fourth couple having marital woes.
At its premiere, Ayckbourn’s play probably shocked with its bedroom-themed shenanigans. Nearly forty years later, the characters are familiar. The ongoing set-ups have a television sitcom feel. The punch lines are no longer clever as much as cute. It’s like watching reruns of “Three’s Company.” The 70s cutting edge humor is reduced to a smiling amusement. The heightened end of the scene is anticipated. Even though it might have started out as a madcap lampoon, BEDROOM FARCE aged into a formulaic comedy. I can pinpoint where the laugh soundtrack would be cued. It reminded me of the show “Love American Style” but the British version.
Under the direction of Nick Sandys, the talented cast droll on. They embody these cliched yet amicable characters. On stage the entire time, Stephan Dale (Nick) is a standout. Dale plays a caustic husband with back problems. With his limited mobility, Dale still makes his slapstick schtick work. Dale’s jerk of the head or eye roll have well-timed placement. Another noteworthy performance is Nina O’Keefe (Susannah). O’Keefe plays pathetic to absurdity with a screechy voice and a repeated affirmation. One spouse in each pairing goes over-the-top to enhance the humor. Donna Steele (Delia) kept it perfectly prim and proper in her household. In contrast, JP Pierson (Malcom) rants in blustery outbursts. And special nod out to Costume Designer Rachel Lambert for dressing the cast in groovy vintage.
Even with the dated content, Sandys delivers a light-hearted yet lengthy romp. In a situation comedy where the joke is anticipated, the action should be tighter and faster to compensate. At times, especially in Act 2, the pacing dragged. Still, BEDROOM FARCE is an easy summer pick for its frothy fun-loving spirit.
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission
At Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport
Written by Sir Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Nick Sandys
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru September 1st
Buy Tickets at www.eclipsetheatre.com