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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

Adrian Neil, Bridget Ann White, Steve Wilcox, and Mina Bada
(Photo: The Lost Studio)
There's a new Ayckbourn in town. Though written in 1974, it's having its American premiere at The Lost Studio midwifed with sly precision by director John Pleshette and his excellent cast. The theme is loneliness and lack of communication.

Divided into six playlets, it kicks off with A Talk in the Park in which five people isolated in the park. They sit on benches at the front of the stage facing us. One has a laptop, one is plugged into earphones, one feeds the birds, two text on their cellphones (the cellphone and laptops are part of director Pleshette's visual updating). When a young man (Brendan Hunt) pours a monologue into the ear of a girl absorbed in texting, it's no wonder he's not heard.

In Mother Figure, maternal Lucy (Mina Badie) greets neighbors Rosemary (Abigail Revasch) and husband Terry (Steve Wilcox). Triumphantly pregnant, she makes mincemeat of shy Rosemary and her bullying husband. By play's end, their roles are reversed.

Harry (Brendan Hunt) clumsily attempts seduction of Paula (Phoebe James) and Bernice (Abigail Revasch again, in a stunning reversal of her previous role) in Drinking Companions. This one goes on a little too long but copyright laws forbid cutting, so we're treated to his becoming as big a bore as he does to the girls. It's to Hunt's credit that he's pompous, sly and generally holds the stage.

Hunt plays the Waiter in Between Mouthfuls, in which two couples, seated back to back, order. Pearce (Adrian Neil) bickers furiously with Mrs. Pearce (Bridget Ann White). Their neighbors are Polly (Phoebe James) and her husband Martin (Steve Wilcox). Polly wants to leave when she spots Pearce with whom she's just had a 3-week fling in Rome. Martin wants t o stay and professes to be shocked, shocked, when Polly tells him why. The wives storm off, the non-plussed Pearce offers to buy Martin a drink, plus pick up his tab, and they stroll off arm in arm. Waiter steals the scene by piling on the salad dressing and doing whatever to stay in the picture and eavesdrop.

Gosforth's Fete takes place at a stately country home aquired by Gosforth (Adrian Neil), a man with a lower-class accent. He fiddles with the deficient sound system until interrupted by Milly (Mina Badie), who announces, with some confusion, that she's pregnant — by him. Since the sound system has gone on in the middle of her confession, her fiancée Scoutmaster Arthur (Brendan Hunt) roars on, followed by the Vicar (Steve Wilcox) and a muddy Mrs. Pearce (Bridget Ann White) whom the boyscouts have directed into a bog.

The play ends back in A Talk in the Park, where each of the five parksters murmurs his monologue into his neighbor's ear. The neighbor, instead of responding, gets up and scurries over to an adjoining bench, where he pours his scorn into that neighbor's ear until -— well, you get the picture.

Although an occasional cliché such as that sound system in Gosforth's Fete that goes on at the most suspicious moment creeps in, all in all this is prime Ayckbourn. Perhaps the most telling moment is the last one, when all five parksters peer longingly, inquisitively off into a sternly silent wild blue yonder.

Editor's Note: Curtainup has reviewed many of the prolific Ayckbourn's play. To read some of them just search for his name in our Master Index


Playwright: Alan Ayckbourn

Director: John Pleshette

Producer: Lynn Pleshette

Production Manager: Victoria Watson

Cast: Mina Badie (Lucy, Milly). Brendan Hunt (Arthur, Harry, The Waiter, Stewart). Phoebe James (Beryl, Paula, Polly), Adrian Neil (Pearce, Waiter, Gosforth, Charles), Abigail Revasch (Rosemary, Bernice). Bridget Ann White (Mrs. Pearce, Doreen), Steve Wilcox (Terry, Martin, Vicar, Ernest) Set Design: John Pleshette

Lighting Design: Carrie LaFerle

Costumes: Esther Rydell

Sound Design: Joseph Slawinski

Running time: Two hours plus one 15-minute intermission

Running dates: Jan. 15-March 7, 2010

Where: The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea, Los Angeles. Reservations: (323) 960-5775. Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on Jan. 15.
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