Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
November 28, 2014
If you want to see a show that makes your marriage, however imperfect, feel absolutely flawless, check out the three monstrously dysfunctional but hilariously funny couples in “Absurd Person Singular.”
Sir Alan Ayckbourn, one of the world’s most prolific playwrights (70 plays and counting), has created a cottage industry out of making mincemeat of his fellow Brits, with particular uproarious cynicism aimed at wedded non-bliss.
This 1975 work, acid-laced but loaded with farcical situations and luscious language, takes place in 3 acts, 3 kitchens, on 3 Christmas eves. England, as you know, is all about class, and the three couples represent rising and falling fortunes, and ever-changing alliances, often a function of finances. So the kitchens supposedly evolve to reflect increasing wealth. The changes at Scripps Ranch Theatre are clever, but they don’t capture important elements of affluence. And the costumes aren’t always flattering to the figures they’re draped on.
But that’s not the crux of an Ayckbourn play. It’s all about the bitter quip and the hair-trigger timing. You may never again laugh like this at attempted suicide.
Director Brian Salmon, who has played in several local Ayckbourn productions, has a pitch-perfect sense of the rhythm and pace required. And he’s marshaled an excellent cast, each of whom gets spotlighted moments of brilliance.
Charles Peters is master of the stiff upper lip and “Oh dear!” exclamation in every circumstance; as his wife, Susan Clausen rocks her antic, OCD cleaning obsession. DeNae Steele is a deadpan hoot with her multiple attempts at ending her marriage and her life, while her husband, sardonically portrayed by Jonathan Sachs, barely notices her, but fires off a deliciously scathing monologue. And then there’s Fred Harlow and Terri Brown, mutually loathing and loathsome banker and his supercilious spouse. His near electrocution and her drunken dancing are rambunctious fun.
A terrific ensemble all around, and every physical misfire is expertly executed.
Christmas came early to Scripps Ranch. The laughter is very well seasoned.
“Absurd Person Singular” runs through December 7, at Scripps Ranch Theatre.
©2014 PAT LAUNER