Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

August 31, 2010

Robert Mandan and Maggie Peach. Photo: Ron Sossi/Odyssey Theater 2010

Being funny is hard enough. To expect big ideas from a comedy seems unfair if not outright impossible considering what a fickle thing real laughs can be. Take Alan Ayckbourn for instance, a prolific and quite successful playwright whose brand of British sex comedy has become a staple in the English speaking world over his lifetime. His ubiquitous works are many things, and in the right hands they are undoubtedly funny. But even what seems on the surface to be dated farce can tap into much deeper streams as proven by Matthew Warchus’ recent revival of The Norman Conquests that appeared in both New York and London. Here in Los Angeles in recent years one of the biggest purveyors of Ayckbourn’s work has been the Odyssey Theater Ensemble who’ve made a point of a revival nearly every summer over the last several years and are currently in the midst of a successful run of Bedroom Farce. The terrain is familiar, three couples of different ages comically deal with a fourth far less stable pair in the wake of a disastrous house-warming party. It's the 1970s and who is bedding down with whom and under what circumstances is of paramount importance. Also par for the course is Ayckbourn’s use of a clever framing device. All the action in Bedroom Farce takes place in one of three bedrooms that the eight characters enter and exit over the course of the play with most of the cast on stage in one of the three contiguous rooms at all times.

The Odyssey revival pulls this off quite well. Director Ron Bottitta and his very good ensemble cast have succeeded in assembling a show that is first and foremost funny and thus meets the most basic requirements of comedy. The very talented cast milks the smell of fish, the assembly of furniture, and the more thorny topic of acute back pain for solid laughs throughout this well-paced and energetic evening. But does it go beyond funny? Not always. But this Bedroom Farce has its moments. Particularly from Kate Hollinshead and Maggie Peach who dispatch every understated “Yes, quite” for maximum effect and tap into the underlying dialog about these characters’ lives without having to say a thing. I was also rather fond of Robert Mandan’s Ernest whose enthusiasm for a ripping adventure story was a take home moment from this evening as well. So even if Odyssey's Bedroom Farce doesn’t always live up to more than light comedy, it does manage that task quite well. And isn’t that enough of an achievement in itself? Bedroom Farce runs through September 26 on the Westside.


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