note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
In Alan Acykbourn’s farce, a little girl who takes a day off from school because she wasn’t feeling well and goes to work with her abandoned, single, very pregnant, housekeeper mother, ends up with shocking fodder for her school theme, “My Wonderful Day”.
The contemporary play premiered in October 2009 at a theater in Scarborough, England, where Acykbourn is the longtime artistic director and is making its New England premiere with Zeitgeist, starring an impressive Boston cast.
While the one-act, 90-minute play has several slapstick, comic moments, it drags at times. There are long moments at the outset, when Winnie Barnstairs and her mother, Laverne, arrive at TV celebrity host Kevin Tait’s (John Romualdi) home to clean it, and he’s in a stew. His wife isn’t there, so he invites his co-worker-lover Tiffany to come over for a daytime tryst - despite Winnie and Laverne’s being there. Everyone’s surprised when Kevin’s hung-over buddy-co-worker Josh’s (Craig Houk) stumbles in, as the scene becomes a three-ring circus, with Winnie in the center ring, as these moral misfits satellite around her.
Poor Winnie is left with these characters when her mother goes into labor and is taken by ambulance to the hospital. Before her dramatic exit, Laverne’s off- and on-stage gut-wrenching groans and screams reverberate through the small theater, as Josh, Kevin and airhead Tiffany unsuccessfully try to entertain Winnie. Alanna Logan portrays Winnie with ease (she’s double-cast, alternating the role with Hyacinth Tauriac). Although Winnie is supposed to be 10 years old, Laverne says she’s almost 9. However, Alanna is almost as tall as her adult co-stars and looks and acts more like 12.
Winnie is unperturbed, shrugs her shoulders and rolls her eyes at the adults’ shifty shenanigans. Instructed by her mom to speak French every Tuesday, in hopes of their returning to Laverne’s homeland, Martinique, Winnie parlais francais to the letter, frustrating the hapless adults trying to communicate with her.
When Kevin’s anger-ridden wife, Paula, (Angela Smith) wanders into this bedlam and queries Winnie, she catches Tiffany and Kevin in bed, then unleashes a vituperative, vitriolic stream. She then calmly takes Winnie to her mom in the hospital.
Zeitgeist Artistic Director David Miller, (also the set designer), has gathered a talented cast that revels in hyperbole. Becca A. Lewis as Tiffany is the typical, sexy, excitable, dumb, yet kindly mistress, and Obehi Janice captures Laverne’s Caribbean cadence and patience.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute comedy by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company, through March 26 at the Plaza Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m., Sunday, 4 p.m. Advance tickets are $25; day of show, $30; seniors, students, $20; Wednesday, March 16,23, pay-what-you-can, $7 minimum. Visit BostonTheatreScene.com, the Box Office at 527 Tremont St., or call 617-933-8600.