Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Round and Round the Garden": ☼ ☼ BANG

The program guide that A.C.T. gives you when you enter the theater begins like this: "The author of some 74 plays, Alan Ayckbourn is one of the most produced playwrights of all time (second only to Shakespeare)..."

We didn't know that. And with such a laudatory intro, after seeing the new A.C.T. production of "Round and Round The Garden," we'd like to ask the prized Englishman "What else ya got?"

Not that it's not clever. It is very clever. And funny, in a British drawing room kind of way. There are many plays on words (clever) and the lead character (Norman, played by Manoel Felciano) gets to act stupid, unquestionably as a send-up of British middle-class stuffiness. This apparently makes him irresistible to the three sisters, Sarah (Marcia Pizzo), Annie (Delia MacDougall) and Ruth (Rene Augesen).

Once Ruth enters the fracas, in Act Two, Ms. Augesen injects a different kind of class into the banter: this is one classy dame. Her scene on the garden chairs with Annie's suitor Tom (Dan Hiatt) is peppered with the best lines in the play and we would be excitedly awaiting the obvious conclusion if it weren't for Norman.

I mean -- he's such a drip. If Ayckbourn's point is that any fool would win the heart of these three women, he has succeeded.

Lydia Tanji's costuming stands out -- Annie lounges around in an oversized sweater in Act One but dons a marvelous yellow number in Act Two. Her suitor Tom doesn't notice, but Norman does. Sarah and Ruth wear perfect dresses which speak to their different personalities -- Ruth the business woman and Sarah the home maker.

Why did Carey Perloff decide to revive this show? The satire that was shocking in 1972 -- that a woman might have her own desires and even choose to act upon them -- is by 2010 no longer the lead story on Channel Four News. If this were Moliere we might beam with the realization that times haven't changed all that much across the centuries. But they have changed since 1972. The show is done well, the set is glorious, as always at A.C.T. and the cast is admirable. But do we care? A little?

A little, yes.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Round and Round the Garden" Two Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE. The first star is a given at A.C.T. -- the set, costuming and lighting are their usual standout selves. Star Two is for Rene Augesen -- until she enters the show is floundering. Her humor and stage presence rescue the second act. Anthony Fusco is also very entertaining as Reg with Dishpan Hands.

The BANGLE of PRAISE is given for Alan Ayckbourn's many awards (Oliver, Tony, Moliere, Lifetime Achievement and so on). Obviously, hoards of theater goers love to see the middle classes drop their knickers.

"Round and Round the Garden"
A.C.T. Theater
415 Geary Street, San Francisco
Through May 23

1 comment:

jj-aka-pp said...

Pity. I love Ayckborn. Except for "Way Upstream" which just pissed me off. When I first saw him, I heard him compared to Neil Simon...Shakespeare? now I'm not sure about that...but he may haver written more than Will by now.

Wiah I could have been with you...for this or any of your theatre forays.