Whenever people are desperate for a laugh, Alan Ayckbourn always comes through. So, hats off to the Actors Company Theater for bringing us “Bedroom Farce” in our hour of need. Laugh engine of this 1970s comedy of errors is the toxic quarrel of a married couple that spreads like wildfire among family and friends and wrecks a perfectly good party. Under Jenn Thompson’s helming, some of the unseasoned thesps fail to grasp the logic of the lunacy. But stronger pros in the cast stage a rescue, leaving us longing for yet another gem from the Ayckbourn library of domestic farces.Helmer Thompson and set designer Robin Vest get the hard part right — setting up a stage that can handle both the flow of action and the comic confusion that results when one errant couple starts drifting in and out of three other couples’ bedrooms. It’s a wonder what some creatives can do with a platform and a few well-placed doors. The catalyst couple in question are Trevor (Mark Alhadeff) and Susannah (Eve Bianco), and all their friends are wondering if they will show up, either separately or together, at the big party tonight. Trevor moves in a total daze, entertaining second thoughts about having married mousey Susannah, who trails behind him, whining through a veil of tears. While both thesps go through the appropriate motions, neither brings much juice to these pivotal characters. Happily, Ayckbourn has made Trevor and Susannah so witlessly annoying, they inspire everyone else onstage to fits of antisocial (and anti-spousal) behavior. In the privacy of their own bedroom, Nick (a perfectly petulant Scott Schafer) complains incessantly over the injured back that’s causing him to miss the party, while wife Jan (a sultry Margaret Nichols) preens at the chance to catch Trevor, a former boyfriend, while he’s on the loose. Given the opportunities for mischief, party-givers Kate (a saucy Ashley West) and Malcolm (Sean Dougherty, taking macho insensitivity a bit too literally) are understandably wary when Trevor shows up. Meanwhile, in their own hilariously overdressed bed chamber, Ernest (Larry Keith) and Delia (Cynthia Harris) show us exactly how their son, Trevor, got to be such a pill. No one plays deadpan better than these two stage vets, and it’s a delight to watch them deal with their sodden daughter-in-law when she shows up in search of advice from her elders. What Susannah gets, along with the rest of us, is a primer in the art of playing comedy, complete with fast moves, slow burns, second takes, arched eyebrows, and that priceless Harris specialty — the curled lip.
Theater Row/Beckett; 99 seats; $55 top
An Actors Company Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Alan Ayckbourn. Directed by Jenn Thompson.
Sets, Robin Vest; costumes, Martha Hally; lighting, Aaron Copp; original music, Amir Khosrowpour; sound, Stephen Kunken; production stage manager, Mel McCue. Opened Oct. 13, 2008. Reviewed Oct. 10. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.
Ernest - Larry Keith Delia - Cynthia Harris Nick - Scott Schafer Jan - Margaret Nichols Malcolm - Sean Dougherty Kate - Ashley West Trevor - Mark Alhadeff Susannah - Eve Bianco