Bedroom Farce | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Bedroom Farce, Touchstone Theatre.

In the later, wiser works of English comic chronicler Alan Ayckbourn, the passage of time is the main means of defining character. But in the early works, like this 1975 romp, the setting shapes the scenes. The bedroom--that peculiarly private place where householders keep their secrets or spill them--is the backdrop for a crazed night of escalating complications and artful misunderstandings.

Since this is Ayckbourn, one bedroom could never contain the mayhem. So there are three bedrooms (precisely contrasted in Todd Rosenthal's appropriately claustrophobic set) accommodating four uneasily married couples. One older couple, parents and in-laws to another couple, are settled enough to put the others' petty problems in perspective. The younger duos, however, are beset with interlocking calamities--searing backaches, collapsing furniture, a calamitous party, and, most important, intimations of jealousy, with and without cause.

At the center of Karen Kessler's deftly manic Touchstone Theatre staging are two contagious performances. As a squabbling pair of infantile narcissists, Tim Decker and Moira Brennan reinvent obnoxiousness, smugly unaware that their strident demands for attention are wrecking the lives--and the sleep--of their frazzled friends. No one approaches Ayckbourn at depicting the damage wrought by the cluelessly selfish, as his Absurd Person Singular (another Touchstone revival) also proved. The rest of Kessler's choice cast cunningly convey the carnage. Especially apt is Maggie Carney as a delightfully dithering wife whose wish to please seems, in contrast to the rest, virtue itself.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve Shay.

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