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Bedroom Farce at Eclipse Theatre Company: Theater review

A marvelous cast enlivens this revival of Alan Ayckbourn's somewhat overinsistent farce.

 (Photograph: Scott Cooper)
1/3
Photograph: Scott Cooper

Joe McCauley and Nina O'Keefe in Bedroom Farce at Eclipse Theatre Company

 (Photograph: Scott Cooper)
2/3
Photograph: Scott Cooper

Sasha Gioppo, Joe McCauley and Stephen Dale in Bedroom Farce at Eclipse Theatre Company

 (Photograph: Scott Cooper)
3/3
Photograph: Scott Cooper

Brian Parry, Donna Steele and Nina O'Keefe (in rear) and Sasha Gioppo, Stephen Dale and Joe McCauley (in front) in Bedroom Farce at Eclipse Theatre Company

 

The bedroom is a stage where personal dramas and comedies unfold on a daily basis, and the bedroom of a married couple is home to even more theatrical material. Alan Ayckbourn’s 1975 comedy details the high jinks that unfold when three of these intimate locations are put side-by-side in one space, cycling through the events of one night that bleed across the bedrooms of three married couples. The uniting factor is the one pair whose home is noticeably absent, insufferable lout Trevor (Joe McCauley) and his basket case of a wife Susannah (a delightfully unhinged Nina O’Keefe)—two caricatures who invade the lives of their friends and family after an especially turbulent evening.

Trevor and Susannah’s drama ruins their friends’ party, threatens the marriage of Trevor’s ex-girlfriend Jan (Sasha Gioppo, finding a great balance of venomous and vulnerable), and interrupts the sleep of Trevor’s parents. Trevor’s mother Delia (Donna Steele) mentions that a person can tell a lot from someone’s bedroom, and Mike Winkelman does remarkable work making distinctions between the couples through the design of their living spaces. Trevor’s parents’ bedroom is traditional with antique furniture, Jan and Nick’s (Stephen Dale) is modern and new with bold colors and graphic design elements, and Malcolm (JP Pierson) and Kate’s (Emily Tate) is a dilapidated makeshift shelter filled with used crap. 

The influence of Ayckbourn’s exceptional 1973 trilogy, The Norman Conquests, is evident in the characterization of boorish Trevor (who constantly describes himself as a “destroyer”) and his relationships with the women around him, but Bedroom Farce lacks the insight and emotional drive of those previous works. There are glimpses of a deeper, darker play here, but this is a farce and Ayckbourn is dedicated to mining as many laughs as possible from the fraught circumstances. There’s no false advertising in this play’s title, with the playwright providing over two hours of steadily flowing slapstick physical comedy, quippy banter and sexual shenanigans. 

Nick Sandys’s cast displays a firm understanding of Ayckbourn’s comic timing, but their energy can’t prevent the script from becoming exhausting in its second half. The situations become increasingly absurd as the playwright mixes and matches the characters, but he doesn’t provide strong enough reasoning for developments like Susannah crawling into bed with her mother-in-law. The play begins to lose steam as jokes are repeated—bedridden Nick’s groans of pain offer diminishing returns of laughs—but the performances remain passionate to the end. The relationships among the couples are fleshed out and relaxed, creating the impression that while tonight may be exceptionally eventful, it’s just the latest in an ongoing series of performances in the bedroom.

 

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