Despite some limitations, Bedroom Farce provides laugh-out-loud moments
Bedroom Farce is the story of four couples and three bedrooms. The oldest pair, Delia and Ernest, are looking forward to a pleasant dinner and a quiet night. They chat peacefully about repairs to the roof, share a late-evening plate of pilchards on toast and cradle cups of bedtime cocoa. But their plans are upended by Susannah, the intensely neurotic wife of their socially obtuse son, Trevor. The depredations of Trevor and Susannah don't stop there. Over the course of one frenetic evening, they destroy the expensive party planned by their friends Malcolm and Kate, threaten the relationship of Nick and Jan (Trevor once dated Jan and gets caught kissing her), and make sure no one gets any sleep.
The play, by renowned British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, isn't a traditional farce. It's not a sexual romp, nor does it feature a set of doors opening and closing, people racing all over the stage, the frantic cuddles and muddles caused by mistaken identity. There are insanely farcical scenes, but each arises with perfect logic from what could almost be real life, as well as from the characters' personalities. Kate huddles naked under the bedcovers while the guests' coats are tossed on top of her. Ernest finds himself exiled from his bedroom and stuck in a bathroom reading Tom Brown's Schooldays. Nick — who's hurt his back so badly that he can't attend the party — spends the entire night moaning and whimpering. Susannah snuggles in bed with her reluctant mother-in-law. Malcolm puts together a crazed and crooked piece of furniture from a kit, banging away furiously at three in the morning.
Ayckbourn has a habit of setting himself intricate dramaturgical puzzles and solving them with ingenuity and precision. His Absurd Person Singular takes place in three separate kitchens during three Christmas Eves; we never see the events being planned in these kitchens, just as we never watch the actual meltdown of Kate and Malcolm's party. The heroine of Comic Potential is a beautiful robot who needs emptying after eating or drinking. Communicating Doors has a dominatrix visiting a hotel room, learning of a murder committed decades earlier and moving back and forth in time — always through the same door, always ending up in the same room — in an attempt to prevent it. The characteristic that Bedroom Farce shares with both classic farce and other Ayckbourn plays is hair-trigger timing,and the sheer cleverness with which every piece of the action clicks into place. The dialogue is absolutely priceless, too, a seamless mix of over-the-top exclamation and classic English understatement.
Vintage hasn't quite caught the rhythm of this piece; the English accents are wobbly and the acting sometimes superficial. But on a limited tech budget, and confined to a tiny stage that has to accommodate three rumpled beds, director Linda Williams has deployed an amiable cast, worked out the intricacies of the action and created a pleasant evening with quite a few laugh-out-loud moments.
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