Susannah (Katie Paxton) and Trevor (Karl Miller)
By Mike Hoban
Bedroom Farce – Written by Alan Ayckbourn; Directed by Maria Aitken; Scenic Design by Alexander Dodge; Costume Design by Robert Morgan; Lighting Design by Matthew Richards; Sound Design & Original Music by John Gromada. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at 264 Huntington Ave. in Boston through December 11th
Looking for an antidote to the post-election dread that seems to be permeating the psyche of much of the local electorate? Huntington Theatre Company has got a sure-fire remedy in “Bedroom Farce,” the wildly entertaining Alan Ayckbourn comedy now playing at the Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre on Huntington Ave. And while it may not be a cure for anything more than your wounded spirit, it’s a pretty good bet that a viewing of this terrific production will send you to your own bedroom with a smile on your face – with or without a partner.
Actually, the title of “Bedroom Farce” may be a bit of a misnomer, as it isn’t particularly sexy as the ‘Bedroom’ in the title implies, and doesn’t technically meet the strict theater definition of farce – there are no overly improbable or exaggerated characters or situations in the play – but it certainly meets the primary purpose of any farce, and that is to deliver laughs. Ayckbourn accomplishes this by taking the already absurd everyday dialogue that married couples engage in, injects some turmoil into the mix in the form of a particularly unstable twosome, then tosses in a healthy dose of physical comedy (including some wickedly funny cartoonish violence) to create a delectable comic stew.
What drives this comedy is the ripple effect that chaos junkies Trevor (Karl Miller) and Susannah (Katie Paxton) have on the other three couples over the course of one (very long) night. Trevor is so blinded by his own self-importance that he manages to simultaneously believe that he is the center of the universe while failing to recognize the true disruptive impact that his actions may have on others. And Susannah, while beautiful, is a classic study in low self-esteem that manifests itself in attention-grabbing outbursts, which, of course, make for outrageous comic setups. Ayckbourn utilizes a clever design trick in setting up the bedrooms of the three couples (whom Trevor and Susannah will inflict themselves upon over the course of the evening) side by side onstage – and lets the dimming of the lights of one bedroom give way to the lighting of another to signal scene changes.
The first bedroom is occupied by Trevor’s parents, Delia and Ernest (wonderfully played by Patricia Hodges and Malcolm Ingram) who, while getting ready for their anniversary dinner at a high-end restaurant, are discussing a host of fairly inane topics (including a potential leak in the ceiling that Ernest is sure will have catastrophic consequences) when the topic turns to their son Trevor’s unfortunate choice of Susannah as his wife. Both preferred Jan, the one that got away, whom (unbeknownst to them) has since married the more financially successful but equally self-centered Nick.
Nick and Jan, as well as Trevor and Susannah, have been invited to a house party at the apartment of their working class friends Malcolm and Katie. Malcolm – knowing that the easily combustible Trevor and Susannah have the potential to destroy the party with one of their trademark battles – is reluctant to have them come, but sweet wife Katie insists, and not long after the party begins, the inevitable fireworks commence. In the meantime, Nick (Nael Nacer) is stuck in bed with a bad back, leaving the door open for a potential rekindling of romance between Jan and Trevor, adding more fuel to the comic fire.
Director Maria Aitken’s pacing is near perfect – fast enough to keep the steady stream of laughs flowing but deliberate enough to let us catch all of the jokes. Hodges and Ingram are a delight as the elderly couple who have learned to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies, and the rest of the cast is solid across the board, with Nacer and Richard Hollis (as Malcolm) delivering some terrific physical comedy bits. “Bedroom Farce” is truly what theatrical comedies should aspire to, and Aitken and company really show us how it’s done. For more information, go to: http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/2016-2017/bedroom-farce/