Ideal cast keeps 'Communicating Doors' revolving at Cygnet
Published September 2007
By Carol Davis
Written by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Esther Emery
6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N
Through Sept. 23
If you haven't been to Cygnet Theatre in the east county yet, you should make it your business to take a look-see. Aside from the fact that their work is par excellence, it's cozy, comfy, has ample parking and it's always a treat to see their next innovative project the latest one being a time-traveling sci fi/comedy/ -thriller by the prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, who has penned at least 50 plays (and in record time in some cases).
Aykbourn' signature plays, for the most part, combine comedy, farce, wonderful word play, a touch of mystery and surprise, convoluted plots and tell-tale dialogue. Years ago, his plays were produced about as often as Neil Simon's and in any given month of any given year, it was almost expected to be included in some theater's lineup. But they slowly faded from the local landscape.
Currently, Cygnet Theatre is presenting the San Diego premiere of Ayckbourn's 1994 play, "Communicating Doors," and one has to wonder if the reasons it's not been done here before are because of the complicated plot; the delicate balance of past, present and future blending seamlessly together; or not having the right actors or production crew to make it work. Well, put aside any of those fears because Cygnet has done it all under the playful and deft direction of Esther Emery.
The story unfolds on Nick Fouch's detailed replica of an upscale hotel suite in London; an entry door leading into the living room, a door to the bedroom, balcony doors leading directly to a balcony, a bathroom door and cut-a-way bathroom (the shower curtain is a little reminiscent of "Psycho") and a connecting or communicating door (which in reality leads to a corridor or adjoining room) revolving to the past, present or future. There's a plant stand right astride the connecting door that's a dead giveaway for anyone coming and going, as everyone tips it over on their way in or out! It's a perfect setup for what's to come.
The year is 2027 and seasoned hooker, Poopay (a very sexy Jessica John) who calls herself a "special sexual consultant" dressed in leather from head to foot, blond wig and cockney accent as thick as a brick wall, looking like nothing less than one formidable dominatrix is summoned to the room by Julian (Manny Fernandes), one evil-looking SOB.
Poopay likes what she sees and is ready to apply her craft when she is told the business she's there for is for Julian's partner in crime, Reece (Tim West), not himself. She takes it all in stride until she sees that Reece is in his 70s, hunched over and barely able to make it out of the bedroom into an easy chair in the living room. She protests, he shoos Julian out of the suite and that's when the fun begins.
Reece tells Poopay that he is dying and has left behind a confession of all his dastardly deeds which, with a little help from his trusted partner, Julian, were all carried out. Still not getting her mission there, she reluctantly follows him into the bathroom where he proceeds to pull out a written confession detailing the plots to kill his former wives for their money. What else? She's a hard sell to carry out his assignment, but after she reads the confession she finally agrees to bring the letter to Reece's attorneys. Just then, Julian pops into the room, sensing that enough time had lapsed for Reece to do his "thing."
He smells a rat!
Suspicious by nature, Julian tries to kill Poopay when he learns Reece's decision to tell all. She makes a run for the hallway door. Instead of escaping out of the room, the door revolves; lights flash (Eric Lotze), music ta dums (George Yé) and she is transported back into time (2007) and into the same hotel room. Only now, Ruella (Sandy Campbell), Reece's "now" wife is waiting for her husband to come back from his business trip. Ruella, bewildered and somewhat surprised at her unexpected guest, calls hotel security, a gentleman named Harold (Craig Huisenga) to have Poopay removed from the premises.
Only hours away from her impending death by "accidentally" falling (read "pushed by Julian") over the hotel's balcony, and armed with Reece's confession, Poopay finally convinces Ruella (a) who she is and how she got there (b) why she should believe her and (c) how to get to and convince wife No. 1, Jessica (Brenda Dodge)of her coming danger as well. That means going back into time another 20 years, and both agree it's worth a try.
So there you have it. The times weave back and forth and part of the fun is figuring out where we are, who's where, how do we convince them how we got there, will Poopay accomplish her mission and how the hell this whole thing going to come out.
It's fun to watch, and figure, and keep up with the time frames, which can get a little confusing (at least to yours truly), but with the acting and directing so on target it really doesn't matter. As in most of his plays, Ayckbourn has a trick or two up his sleeve anyway.
John is simply perfect as the dingy, somewhat vulnerable but not so flighty sex pistol. Her cockney accent is dead-on, thicker than a wall of bricks and she has proven, once again, how diverse and deep her talents run. As resident artist at Cygnet and having acted in such heavy rolls as Maggie in Tennessee Williams' "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," this shows another side of a sparkling personality that many of us have come to admire.
Campbell, a most talented musical theater actor herself, now convinces that her acting is on an equal par to her singing. Her perfect sense of timing, and depth of understanding of her character not only add to Ruella's credibility, it shows that dedication to a craft pays off.
Longtime actor West couldn't have been a better choice as Reece. His aging back to the past is nothing less than a tribute to his abilities as well another feather in his cap as he maneuvers through the time changes.
Fernandes still amazes as an actor whose range and depth of personalities grow with every show he's performed in. He was very convincing and scary as the Evil Empire in both looks, dress (Shulamit Nelson–Spilkin) and actions.
Huisenga has great comedic timing as the bewildered Harold, and Dodge who fits the bill as wife number one round out the ideal cast in a fun filled production that's been a long time coming.
See you at the theater.