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THEATER REVIEW : Farce of Musical Beds Needs a Night or Two


The fun in farce sometimes depends on the number of doors on stage for the characters to whiz in and out of. Alan Ayckbourn, that trickster of British comedy, does it with beds in his popular "Bedroom Farce."

Don't get the wrong idea. The play could almost have a G rating. The beds are only the squares for the diligent efforts of Ayckbourn's comedic pawns to keep Trevor and Susannah from breaking up their marriage.

On Long Beach Playhouse's Mainstage, director Ashley Carr Jr. does a laudable job of staging Ayckbourn's jigsaw puzzle of a comedy. But the action takes place on a much too extended set by Steve Harvey, in three bedrooms too far apart for ease in comic timing.

Slightly sluggish pacing is this production's flaw, but that should even out with playing. The rhythms are right--Carr has seen to that--and a brightening of the pace is inevitable. Producing comedy such as Ayckbourn's is as tricky as playing Mozart.

Bedroom No. 1 belongs to Trevor's parents, Ernest (Robert Thorpe) and Delia (Corinne Williams), who worry about Trevor's marital problems. Thorpe's self-made success of a father and Williams' almost patient mother are just offhand enough to bring them to life.

In Bedroom No. 3, Kelly Herman and Derek Stefan are fine as Trevor's ex, Jan, and her husband, Nick, whose back has gone out on him just as his jealously of Jan's lingering affection for Trevor flares up.

The innocent bystanders who unconsciously throw a spanner into the works occupy Bedroom No. 2. It is at their housewarming that Trevor and Susannah have their ultimate brawl. Jeff Lappin and Mary Boessow are both funny and touching as Malcolm and Kate, Lappin kinetic with frustrated double-takes and Boessow beguiling with unself-conscious physical shtick.

Ruth Perry is delightfully volatile and distracted as Susannah, but along with most of the cast should resist punctuating the gags. The only cast member who has mastered the conversational tone that gets Ayckbourn's laughs without effort is Daniel Lee Riley as Trevor. A studiously careless response and a quick glance do the trick. Riley knows just how to use subtlety for the right effect.

* "Bedroom Farce," Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage, 5021 Anaheim St., Long Beach. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 18. $10 . (310) 494-1616. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Daniel Lee Riley: Trevor

Ruth Perry: Susannah

Jeff Lappin: Malcolm

Mary Boessow: Kate

Derek Stefan: Nick

Kelly Herman: Jan

Corinne Williams: Delia

Robert Thorpe: Ernest

A Long Beach Playhouse production. Comedy by Alan Ayckbourn. Directed by Ashley Carr Jr. Setting: Steve Harvey. Lighting: Gary Fitch. Technical director: M. Scott Nine.

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