Hopewell’s Off-Broadstreet Theater is celebrating this year’s holiday season with a bedroom farce, “In One Bed . . . and Out the Other.” Based on a French play by Jean de Letraz, “Une Nuit Chez Vous . . . Madame!” this farce is the work of Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert, who specialized in adapting French farces for American audiences. Green and Feilbert, who were most active from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, first wrote this piece in the 1960s and revised it in the late 1970s.
The driving principle of “In One Bed . . . and Out the Other” appears to be to see how many of the possible combinations of seven people, taken two at a time, can be dealt with. And how much confusion as to who is involved with whom can be generated in a short time. In the first 15 minutes of the play we meet two people pretending to be someone else, and two people attracted to someone they think is someone else. In retrospect that tells us a good deal about the play, even though the audience may not realize at first what a dizzy world they have entered.
The play opens on a handsome interior, a comfortable living room with many doors, some leading outside, some to the bedrooms, some to the kitchen. This is the home of Gaston Dubois, clearly a well-off man. Tending to these rooms is a butler, who seems to have a rather large chip on his shoulder. He calls himself Didier (his name is actually Maurice, but to help out his friend, Didier, he has agreed to pretend to be Didier). The real Didier, calling himself Maurice, arrives at the door with a tale of having once lived in the building with his true love, who has since left him. If only he could borrow the apartment for a bit, he might be able to entice her back. This story captivates Gaston’s wife, who has lost any hope of rekindling her romance with Gaston. Next appears Clara, who expects to consummate the passionate but as yet unconsummated affair she’s begun with Gaston, who has of course neglected to mention that he is married. Gaston’s wife assumes that Clara must be Didier’s long-lost love.
Everything in the previous paragraph has happened in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the first act. The complications continue as the act proceeds. There’s no reason to assume that life won’t simply go on like this until the characters become too old to have the necessary energy. The second act takes place after dinner, and a large double bed has been added to the set, smack in the middle of the living room. It is covered with a bedspread large enough to hide however many people might show up in the bed. Two new characters appear: Rosine, who is Maurice’s fiancee, and Aunt Alice, Maurice’s aunt.
Aunt Alice thinks the bed is for her, but when she tries to retire, she soon discovers that other members of the household have other ideas. The act proceeds with various combinations of people being surprised by and causing surprises to others in the story. To provide any more details would take too much of the fun out of the show, so let me simply say that because this is a farce, the ending has to be a happy one.
Most of the actors will be familiar to Off-Broadstreet regulars. Gaston is played by Barry Abramowitz, who has appeared many times at Off-Broadstreet, most recently as Big Jule in “Guys & Dolls.” He does a first-rate job of being a charming host and double-dealing lover. His wife, Huguette, is played by Vicky Czarnik, who made her OBT debut as Adelaide in “Guys & Dolls.” Yet another veteran from OBT’s “Guys & Dolls” is Geoffrey Barber, who plays Maurice (or is it Didier?). Like Abramowitz, Barber has many OBT shows to his credit. Aunt Alice is handled by Virginia Barrie, doing her third show for OBT. Playing the only character who isn’t trying to impress the others, she does a stand-out job. Adina Petro, who made her first appearance at OBT in “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” is Clara. It is no surprise to learn that Petro, a very slender and elegant woman, spent a good bit of time as a model in New York City. The other two cast members are newcomers to OBT. Jennifer Newby is Rosine; her favorite past roles include Lady Windermere and Puck. Finally, the role of Didier (or is it Maurice?), is taken by Johnny Ragazzo, who may be a newcomer to OBT but has had an active past with many other New Jersey theater companies.
Robert Thick is, of course, responsible for the direction and the design. OBT regulars will recognize aspects of the set, but the core pieces have been adapted to provide a splendid machine for cranking out the absurdities of the plot. The costumes are by Ann Raymond.
The weak aspect of this farce is the dialogue, but the nonsense is clear enough and stylishly enough conveyed to keep most audiences happy most of the time.
— Barbara Westergaard
“In One Bed and Out the Other,” Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Saturday, January 22. Classic farce. $27.50 to $29.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.