note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Lately, there isn’t much to laugh about, given the economics, crooked politics, and tumultuous weather, but Gloucester Stage Company’s production of prolific playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s “Living Together,” (the second installment of his trio of hilarious plays, “The Norman Conquests”), is very funny.
Gloucester Stage theatergoers are fortunate that award-winning Artistic Director-Director, Eric Engel was able to bring back the same all-star cast that starred in last year’s production of Ayckbourn’s first trilogy installment, “Table Manners,” providing delicious continuity for theatergoers who saw it. Steven Barkhimer as Ruth’s mischievous, philandering husband, Norman, is as hilarious as ever; as is Jennie Israel as his serious, business executive wife, Ruth. Richard Snee provides pivotal timing as Reg, Ruth’s brother and Sarah’s henpecked husband, while TV-movie-stage star, Lindsay Crouse, is neurotically humorous as Sarah, as she fusses about compulsively, trying to maintain her composure and restore order in this chaotic household.
Looking and acting much like Tom Smothers (of the Smothers Brothers), Barlow Adamson is dense, clueless, kindly veterinarian, Tom, who likes Annie but avoids commitment; and Sarah Newhouse, as central figure, Annie, the youngest sister, who looks unkempt, stays at home to care for her demanding, psychosomatic mother, is so bored, she had a fling with Norman on the living room floor last time, causing an uproar amongst the family.
The couples return home twice a year to give Annie a well-needed weekend away, which ended up going awry last time - and this time, too - because everyone discovered her weekend getaway is a tryst with Norman.
Director Engel said it’s fantastic to work with the play’s superb designers and this cast because they all genuinely love each other and enjoy acting together, which shows. Their comedic timing is flawless. their affection apparent, as they deliver one funny scene after another. When Norman (Barkhimer) tells an angry Ruth that he only wants to make everyone happy, he turns to us, his eye mischievously twinkling, smiling like a just-fed Cheshire cat. And when Sarah angrily confronts Norman for trying to steal Annie away from Tom, he replies, “I wasn’t stealing her; I was borrowing her.” His antics become increasingly outrageous, upping the laugh meter.
When Norman gets drunk on dandelion wine, his snoring and silliness are hilarious.
Then, too, Ayckbourn’s dialog is sarcastic, witty, and the eyebrow-raising end is sublime.
Jenna McFarland Lord’s shabby-chic set of a British living room that needs refurbishing, Gail Buckley’s costumes that perfectly define each character, and Russ Swift’s lighting are also noteworthy. For Father’s Day, or just plain fun, grab your spouse or significant other, and see “Living Together”.
BOX INFO: Two-act, two-hour comedy, written by Alan Ayckbourn, appearing at the Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main St., Gloucester, through June 26. Performances are June 15-18, June 22-25, at 8 p.m.; matinees, June 18,25 at 3 p.m.; June 19,26, at 4 p.m. Tickets, $37; seniors, students, $32. For more information, call the Box Office at 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.org.