Arts & Events

Theater Review: Ayckborn's Communicating Doors at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday July 27, 2011 - 02:33:00 PM

Kind of an inversion of Plaza Suite, Neil Simon's comedy of three little comic melodramas in the same hotel room, a part in each essayed by the same actor, Alan Ayckbourn's Communicating Doors proves to be a doorslammer that echoes down the corridors of time. 

A suspicious old party solicits a dominatrice through his business partner, but, once alone, only wants her to witness and deliver a deathbed confession of his grave misdeeds, a page hidden in the bidet. When mayhem ensues, the dominatrice somehow finds herself unglued in time, meeting the businessman's second wife in the past, occupying the same hotel room, and challenged to convince her of her own future murder, which she's just heard confessed ... 

It doesn't stop there! Ayckbourn has a field day with his take-off of Feydeauesque farce, involving not just multiple bodies in the same room, but different eras in recent time 

A little like a chain letter, or even like the old game of whispering the same message from one ear to another down a row of listeners/whisperers, waiting to see how distorted--or straightened out!--the message becomes. 

Suzan Lorraine's cast (Kim Stewart produced)--Carol Reyes, Claire Stevenson, Lee Vogt, Mark Holobetz, Jennifer Hughes and Bill Chessman--succeed in meshing more and more as an ensemble as the plot stretches like taffy across a few decades ... 

Vogt, as penitent Reece Wells, is particularly fine, accomplishing a convincing volte-face of character--after the audience has him well-pegged--to demonstrate the changes wrought by time altered through the characters' contra-temporal deeds. 

Carol Reyes also deserves special kudos for her portrayal of Reece's unflappable second spouse Ruella. 

Bill Chessman, as the confused hotel dick, gets better and better as his character becomes increasingly confused and semi-articulate. 

Among the designers, Helen Slomowitz's costumes are--as always--fine. 

It's an entertaining, engrossing play by a contemporary master toying with dramatic structure for the audience's--and his own--amusement. 

Fridays and Saturdays, 8 pm, and Sunday matinees at 2 through August 20. Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck at Berryman, $12-$15. 649-5999;