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A CurtainUp Review
Things We Do For Love
"We're really past the stage of plunging into destructive relationships, surely? Smashing up the place.— Barbara
Verbal insults have nothing on physical ones in Alan Ayckbourn's bleakly amusing, brightly touching 1997 Things We Do For Love. The prolific playwright (78 plays so far) has often been compared with Neil Simon. But the comparison stops at the junction of funny and jokey, with Ayckbourn veering off into exploring, as he's said, the darkness of human nature. In this play, now in a fast-paced rendering at Westport Country Playhouse, darkness and light are so artfully intermixed that they not only complement but feed upon one another.
L-R: Geneva Carr, Sarah Manton, Matthew Greer, and Michael Mastro(Photo by Carol Rosegg)
At the center is frigid, efficient, organized Barbara, as capable of managing her boss' calendar as she is putting up a knick-knack shelf. (Her school nickname, "Spike," is apropos. Shunning both relationships and marriage ("I chose to live alone," she says), she's paradoxically desired by her downstairs tenant Gilbert, worshipped by her former school chum Nikki, and enters into a passionate love-hate relationship with the chum's fiancé Hamish.
Barbara's flat on the first floor of her early Victorian terrace house reflects her fastidious personality. Upstairs is a messy rental she must clean up before her new tenants, Nikki and Hamish, arrive. The downstairs flat is occupied by Gilbert who not only harbors a secret obsession for Barbara but acts that out by painting her nude portrait on his ceiling.
Barbara and Hamish's instant dislike for one another is only a temporary impediment. Beneath their mutual insults is a lustful attraction that will eventually wound both Nikki, one of life's victims, and the offbeat Gilbert. As Ayckbourn once said, "People do a lot of damage to each other with the best of intentions. . . Love can do a lot of unintended damage."
Under John Tillinger's sprightly direction, the cast is superb. As Barbara, turning her emotions on a dime — caustic one minute, dissolved in tears the next — Geneva Carr is a bundle of repression whose blossoming crackles with pent-up fire. Sarah Manton is both plaintive and feisty. Nikki Matthew Greer's Hamish reveals the sensitive soul hiding behind gruff masculinity and Michael Mastro's Gilbert is both yearning and kooky without becoming grotesque.
The production looks handsome, although the set's configuration causes problematic sightlines. Yet, what's missed visually, and sometimes aurally, are not fatal flaws. This Things.. . is joyful and provocative.
Things We Do For Love by Alan Ayckbourn|
Directed by John Tillinger
Cast: Geneva Carr (Barbara),Matthew Greer (Hamish),
Sarah Manton (Nikki), Michael Mastro (Gilbert)
Scenic Design: James Noone
Costume Design: Laurie Churba Kohn
Lighting Design: Paul Miller
Original Music / Sound Design: Scott Killian
Fight Director: Robert Westley
Dialect Consultant: Elizabeth Smith
Props Master: Karin White
Resident Production Stage Manager: Matthew Melchiorre
Running time: Act 1- 80 minutes, Act 2 - 50 minutes, with 15-minute intermission
Westport Country Playhouse, 50 Powers Court, Westport, Conn.
Aug. 19-Sept. 7
Reviewed by David A. Rosenberg at August 23rd preview
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