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LA Theater Review

Bedroom Farce

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Among Alan Ayckbourn's earliest plays, this comedy zeroes in on four couples and takes an up-close look at one of the prolific British playwright's pet subjects: matrimony. At the center are Trevor and Susannah, whose recent marriage is already riddled with strife. This discord spills over into the marriage of Trevor's ex-fiancé, Jan, and her husband, Nick; Kate and Malcolm, who are throwing a house-warming party; and Delia and Ernest, Trevor's parents.

The situations and scenes painted by Ayckbourn are moderately amusing but not side-splitting, the play coming off like a warm-up for some of his later, more skillfully written pieces. Despite Gigi Fusco Meese's thoroughly capable direction and solid cast, anyone waiting for a big payoff is going to be disappointed. The script doesn't even delve that deeply into its focal subject of marriage, instead showing how the most mundane aspects of life tend to override marital bliss. Trevor—who uses people, especially women—and the timid, neurotic Susannah are a mismatch, but Keith Barletta's preppie-ish persona and Emily Olson's subtle reading just don't carry things comedically far enough. Jay Michael Fraley turns Nick's peevish whining about his back injury into an art form as Nick cries for attention from Karen Bukolt's earthy, ultra-patient Jan. Brenan Baird's aptly dashing Malcolm is a study in narcissism and red-faced frustration, while Sarah Blevins' Kate worries about being "too normal" in bed and, like Jan, suffers her husband's faults with good humor. Geraldine D. Fuentes' Delia and Michael Durack's Ernest are kind, good-hearted, and, as scripted, bland.

Daniel Wheeler's clever set wedges three entirely different bedrooms together, complete with hallways and staircases to other parts of the couples' homes. Fusco Meese and sound designer Sean Gray cleverly introduce 1970s bubblegum pop as preshow and intermission music, but they and costume designer Donna Fritsche needed to bring more of this '70s flavor to the play's staging.

Presented by Long Beach Playhouse at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. May 29–July 4. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (562) 494-1014.
www.lbph.com

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