note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
I remember a Lyric production of "Relatively Speaking" at the old (tiny) Charles Street space in which Ron Ritchell played the young leading man growing slowly suspicious of his skittish girl-friend. Numerous hang-ups, implausible explanations, and a pair of unfamiliar slippers make him curious enough to pay her parents a surprise visit .... at least he thinks they're her parents.
Lyric West is showcasing "Relatively Speaking" some thirty years later (My, How time flies!) and Ritchell is now playing the "father" role. That has to be some kind of record!
No one does Ayckbourn better than Ron Ritchell and Polly Hogan. They have the rhythm down, the wicked humor in place, and the farce perfect down to the nano-second; so it's no bog news that this production is a dream.
Ayckbourn's very first play takes a while to set up but once the bricks are firmly in place, the construct is demolished with swift precision. Ritchell and Cheryl McMahon are the quintessential stuffy British couple, detached and even a bit contemptuous of each other's interests ... he of the sly grin, she of the arched eyebrow. They are matched giggle for giggle by Jo Barrick as the younger woman and Robert Isaacson as the beau. Barrick has the great comic timing and big, innocent saucer eyes. Isaacson has the late Peter Cook's heavenly voice and a frightfully amusing slow burn.
Hogan's pacing for farce has no equal. You don't appreciate the finesse involved until you see a failed farce (and I've seen a few lately which shall remain unnamed). Joseph Stephenson's set converts niftily from a bed sitter to the grounds of a country house. (It's the same country house, it turns out, previously occupied at Lyric West by another Ayckbourn couple, fittingly enough!) Seth Bodie's costumes are Carnaby Street smart for the young couple and genteel chic for their elders. They all glow in the sunlight of Jeff Gardner's country lighting.