- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Living Together, a play by Alan Ayckbourn, is the second in a trilogy of plays entitled The Norman Conquests. The first: Table Manners, was performed at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse last summer. It was wonderful to have all six actors reprieving their roles from last year and once again directed by Neil Pankhurst. Though a year has passed, it seemed as though they all easily found their way back in to these endearing characters. The play takes place in a country house in West Sussex, England, era 1974, where three grown-up siblings and their significant others unintentionally all end up under the same roof. From the start, we can tell this family’s drama is going to make for one amusing night at the theatre.
The comfortable living room set was designed by Meredith Brown and featured a few chairs, a couch, a coffee table, side table and desk, as well as a cream colored rug in front of a fireplace that was placed downstage center, making it seem as though the audience was looking through the wall into this cozy room where the mood often juxtaposed the space. Upstage center, opposite the fireplace, was a picture window looking out into the garden of the home. There were also two doors to the room, one that led outside and the other to the rest of the house.
Overall, the play was well enjoyed by the audience, though to me, it didn’t feel like it stood on its own as a play, as much as Table Manners. My companion, who did not see Table Manners last year, mentioned a few times that she wasn’t entirely following the story and it felt like pieces were missing. Considering the trilogy takes place over one weekend with the same characters, but in different areas of the house, it makes sense that things seemed to be missing because they were. The conversations and conflicts that take place in the dining room and in the garden are presented in the other two plays. However, those missing pieces did not stop us or the rest of the audience from laughing at the comical conflicts that ensued throughout the production.
Richard Brundage as Reg and Molly Parker Myers as his wife Sarah were superb in displaying the couple’s strained and realistic marriage. Brundage nailed the dry British humor and feelings of belittlement and neglect from his wife and sisters. Myers, as Sarah, was amusingly obsessive and controlling. She had great zingers throughout the show. I felt her character arched the most during this production, especially where Norman is concerned. Norman, played by Nicholas Wilder, was charming yet conniving in the way he manipulated his wife, Ruth (Suzanne Kimball) and sister-in-laws Sarah and Annie (Rebecca Tucker). Ruth was rather calm when dealing with her often child-like husband Norman and the drama he’s created with her younger sister Annie. Kimball keeps Ruth classy and composed, but still unable to resist her husbands’ charms. Annie, is working to find her voice, and stand up for herself: such as speaking her mind when she disagrees with sister-in-law Sarah over something trivial like who will make the coffee, or when she is frustrated with boyfriend Tom (Jason Plourde). Yet even with her growing maturity and sense of self, she struggles to see past the charisma of Norman. Jason Plourde, as Tom, was sweet and caring even when others would pick on him. He clearly adores Annie, and his support of her is admirable as he often witnesses and endures the clashes between her and her family.
Living Together plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until July 30th. For additional information and tickets to Living Together visit winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org
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