KPBS AIRDATE: AUGUST 18, 2000
If I want to see “The Taming of the Shrew,” I’ll go see Shakespeare… or “Kiss Me, Kate,” Cole Porter’s brilliant 1948 musical. But I don’t need a nasty, retro, unfunny, misogynistic supposed comedy written in 1997 by that British curmudgeon, Alan Ayckbourn.
“Things We Do For Love” gives us all the stereotypes the playwright holds near and dear: a sniveling, whiny woman who’s completely helpless without a man; a handsome guy who repeatedly dumps one lover for another — wife, fiancée, whatever; a strong professional woman who’s, of course, labeled a ‘bitch,’ who clearly needs to be taken to bed — and knocked around. And there’s that old English standby, the sweet, regular guy who just loves to dress up in women’s clothing. WHAT century was this written in??
The extremely prolific Ayckbourn is sometimes clever, or, in his cynical, sardonic way, insightful. But not here. This feels like a forced, 2 1/2 hour TV Britcom — without the laugh track. Its only saving grace is the outstanding performances — by Monique Fowler, Dennis Parlato and the very funny (and even poignant) Tom Lacy. Even Charlotte Booker is good, in the hapless role of the brainless former schoolmate of Barbara (the shrew of note), who shows up after 11 years claiming to be Barb’s best friend. Her most interesting and most credible moment is her methodically diabolical reaction to being betrayed by the two people she loves.
Joe Hardy’s direction has its moments, too, most notably the quickfire pace and the slo-mo approach of the two fated lovers. Best of all in this production, though, is Kent Dorsey’s set, which caters imaginatively to Ayckbourn’s latest whim (he often has a complex setting conceit). Here, we see Barbara’s attractive London apartment, with its rental flats above and below — each of which can only be viewed in part — so all we see in all the upstairs scenes are feet — which is probably best during the long-delayed, moaning/groaning, acrobatic sexual encounter. This is theater I can happily live without. If I want to watch Britcoms, I have KPBS on Saturday nights. And if I want a really good laugh in the theater, I’ll go see the hilarious farce, “Moon Over Buffalo,” at North Coast Rep. At this moment in the summer season, the Globe’s 0 for 3 with me.
©2000 Patté Productions Inc.