Bay Theatre shows great `Table Manners'

Review

May 18, 2007|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,Special to The Sun

Bay Theatre Company is ending its season with a bit of a tease: Table Manners, the first play of Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy, The Norman Conquests.

Little is resolved at the end, and the cast made me wish we could see the rest of the trilogy and peer into the mirror it held up to the audience.

Bay Theatre co-founders Janet Luby and Lucinda Merry-Browne intended to continue next season with the remaining two segments, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden, but the women said this seems unlikely because the plays would require more stage space than is available.

With 70 plays under his belt, Ayckbourn ranks second in England, only to Shakespeare. His works are known for their amusingly accurate commentary on the British suburban middle class.

Written in 1978, Table Manners uses droll humor to capture the loneliness and inability to communicate in some marriages.

The youngest of three siblings, Annie, takes care of her invalid mother and has arranged to go away for the weekend. She asks her brother, Reg, and his wife, Sarah, to look after Mum in her absence.

Soon after she arrives, however, Sarah discovers that Annie's companion will be her older sister Ruth's husband, Norman, an assistant librarian.

Tom, a veterinarian who is Annie's timid suitor, completes the cast of eight.

Directed by Merry-Browne, Bay Theatre's excellent production features four members of Actors' Equity: Luby as Annie, Helen Hayes Award winner Nigel Reed as Norman, Kim-Scott Miller as Tom and Peter Boyer making his Bay Theatre debut as Reg. Allyson Tierney plays Sarah, and CeCe McGee-Newbrough debuts at Bay Theatreas Ruth.

Luby invests in the role of lonely, disheveled Annie with wry humor, confusion and a hint of guilty pleasure. Her character even musters a convincing argument to justify having a fling with her sister's husband.

Reed is excellent as charming, underachieving Norman, whether sparring with his wife, Ruth, seducing Annie or attempting to romance prudish Sarah. Reed is also exquisite in a wordless scene featuring a box of cereal.

With an expressive face, Boyer shares Reed's ability to convey emotion wordlessly, and make us laugh while doing so.

As a veterinarian neighbor and Annie's suitor, Miller is the essence of a decent guy who is awkward and funny.

Ruth has adjusted to a loveless marriage that she helped create, gleefully conveying her disdain for Norman. McGee-Newbrough also provides high comedy in showing her character's Mr. Magoo-like nearsightedness.

Equally annoying is Sarah, who always complains about her role as mother and wife, while trying to manage other people lives.

Everyone's acting is polished and always on the mark. The costumes are authentic and often hilarious.

Visit www.baytheatre.org or call 410-263-1922 for additional information or to order seats for "Table Manners" on weekends through June 2.

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