Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared by Jack Florek for the February 13, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `Communicating Doors’
The vicissitudes of life have often been likened to
traveling down a bumpy road. But watching Bristol Riverside Theater’s
current production of Alan Ayckbourn’s "Communicating Doors,"
on stage through February 17, is a bit like riding in the passenger
seat as your grandfather drives 40 miles per hour down the turnpike
and you happen to spot a 10-ton tractor-trailer bearing down from
Ayckbourn, who is often called `the Neil Simon of Britain,’ has
over 50 plays. Characterized by an elaborate structure, farcical
with a dark hint of cynicism mixed in, his plays are often performed
at a tempo set a notch or two faster than reality. Better that way
for audiences to enjoy the swirling wit, the juggernaut of dialogue,
and the deliciously convoluted plot lines without getting mired in
the sticky mess of wondering whether any of it actually makes sense.
Ayckbourn’s "Communicating Doors" of 1994 is no exception.
Set in the year 2014, Poopay Dayseer (Grace Gonglewski) is a
prostitute summoned to a London hotel suite to service a decrepit
old businessman named Reece (Kenneth Boys). Adorned in a black leather
dominatrix outfit, topped with a chic blond wig, Poopay is slow to
realize that the old man is neither interested in — nor capable
of — sex. What Reece really wants is for Poopay to act as witness
to a document he has kept hidden in the bidet outlining the specifics
of the murder of his two wives by his business associate Julian (Dan
When Julian arrives threatening to kill again, Poopay sneaks out
the nearest door, unaware that it will thrust her 20 years back in
time to the same hotel suite in 1994. Here Poopay discovers Reece’s
second wife, Ruella (Denise Lute), on the eve of her murder. Poopay
tries to explain all this to Ruella, who remains skeptical, until
she goes through the same door and finds Jessica (Elle Alexander),
Reece’s first wife, alive and well in 1974. The trick, for all three
women, is to work together in order to proceed into the future without
getting themselves murdered.
As written, "Communicating Doors" is like a good old-fashioned
melodrama, mixed with a Twilight Zone-style time warp, and sweetened
with some ’90s feminist bonding. After adding in some slapstick comedy
and rib-sticking sentimentality, it aims to pat the audience on the
fanny and sends them home happy.
Onstage at Bristol Riverside Theater, Edward Keith Baker’s direction
strikes me as slow. Lasting nearly two-and-a-half hours,
Doors" plods along in the slow lane, leaving us riders shifting
in our seats. Dialogue that should be rapid-fire repeatedly gets
up in pauses, as actors cock their heads or curl their brows, busily
wringing that extra bit of meaning from the emotional lives of their
Unfortunately, the meaning just isn’t there, nor was it meant to be.
Ayckbourn’s play is as light and airy as a fairy tale and any attempt
to add poetic meat to its bones become maudlin. It also prevents the
audience from becoming involved in whatever strengths the play may
Despite the odd strain of the production, the cast does perform
Grace Gonglewski is quite charming as Poopay. She adds spoonfuls of
sex appeal to the show, performs capably as a slapstick comedienne,
as well as playing the earnest good girl with the twinkle in her eye.
Denise Lute’s Ruella is crisp and determined, and is in many ways
the centerpiece of the production. Despite the circumstances her
finds herself in, Lute never allows Ruella to become overwhelmed by
whiny bitterness. Elle Alexander is also likable as the rather
Kenneth Boys and Dan Diggles are both quite lively in their smaller
roles as Reece and Julian. Boys, in particular, crafts his character
with a studied eye, alternating as a vibrant young man and brittle
codger with a dramatic intensity that is unusual in such light comic
fare. Dan Diggles is wholly evil, as the part requires, but wisely
stops short of adding any Snidely Whiplash-like flourishes to his
performance. Roland Johnson is equally fine as Harold, the ho-hum
hotel security man, playing his character like a frumpy twit, but
nevertheless adding to the comic stew.
"Communicating Doors" is a difficult play to watch —
with a few adjustments, it seems that it could really be quite fine.
Coming out of the show, theater goers may discover that their stomach
muscles are quite sore. Chances are it won’t be from laughing, but
from those anxious turns backward toward the rear view mirror.
— Jack Florek
120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, 215-785-0100. Runs through Sunday,
February 17. $27 to $34.
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