To help ease some of the strain of the holiday season Off-Broadstreet Theater is indulging in a door farce, “There’s a Burglar in My Bed,” by Michael Parker.
Parker was a successful British actor who emigrated to Canada and made enough money on business ventures that he no longer needed to work. Having moved to the United States, he began to indulge his passion for farces and strived, with extraordinary success, to translate the English form into an American one.
But to call this play, which was first produced almost 20 years ago, a door farce does not prepare you for just how many doors are involved. It is true that such farces generally have at least three doors, but Off-Broadstreet’s handsome set boasts eight, every one of which is used at least once, and most of which are used so often one loses count.
The doors in question belong to a beach house, part of a large estate in Massachusetts. The estate is the property of William K. Worthington III (Billy) and Ashley Worthington, a married couple. Each has decided, without telling the other, that it is time to end their marriage and marry their lovers.
While a big party is underway at the 16-bedroom main house, Ashley and her lover, Teddy, sneak off to the beach house to plan their next moves. Unbeknownst to them, they are soon followed by Billy and his lover, Buffy.
The beach house is spacious enough to allow both couples to be there for quite a while without running into one another. All but one of those doors presumably open onto rooms the audience never sees. And the fact that there are so many of them has the audience in a state of bewilderment: “Who is possibly going to be coming through that door next? Or that one?”
It’s clear that the characters have to run into each other eventually, but the author has allowed himself plenty of leeway for deciding exactly when and exactly how.
With such premises it is hard to imagine that anything will work out in the end. But this is a farce, so the audience can assume that a way will be found to satisfy all the characters. And the chances of a positive ending are increased by the fact that the characters in this play may be stupid or selfish, but no one is truly evil.
Bob Thick’s direction paces the production so that the audience wants to find out how it will work out this time. On the occasions where the playwright has made it obvious what is going to happen, the audience is eager to see how Off-Broadstreet will handle the mess.
The cast will seem familiar to Off-Broadstreet regulars — only one character, Marianne, is played by a newcomer to the theater, Alexis Newbauer. Perhaps the most familiar is Barry Abramowitz, who plays Billy. He has entertained Off-Broadstreet audiences in a wide range of roles, most recently as Curtis in “Black Tie.” Once again he does not disappoint.
Tess Ammerman is Buffy; she was last seen at OBT in “The Wildest.” Ashley’s lover, Teddy, is played by Brady Dunbar Niederer, who made his OBT debut in “Relatively Speaking.”
Kate Munley plays Ashley’s sister, Debby; OBT regulars will remember her from, most recently, “The Game of Love and Chance.” William Davis takes on the incompetent private eye. Davis is another regular with the theater, who also appeared in, among many other OBT shows, “The Wildest.” They all do a good job at making the play a holiday treat for the audience.
The design, as well as the direction, is by Bob Thick. The set is handsome, and the direction, as regulars have come to expect at OBT, is clear. Ann Raymond is responsible for the costumes, which are, as is usually the case, straightforward and attractive. Adding to the merriment, two of the characters have some (intentional) costume problems, a novelty for OBT. At one point, to escape being recognized for their real function, Debby and Buffy disguise themselves as nuns. Unfortunately, they have only enough black fabric for the fronts of their habits, which requires some interesting maneuvering to avoid discovery.
It seems clear the OBT will end 2012 with a hit. The show continues through December 22, with performances on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. (dessert is served at 7 p.m.) and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (dessert at 1 p.m.).
There’s a Burglar in my Bed, Off-Boadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Friday, December 21, and Saturday, December 22. Tickets $27-$31.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.