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BWW Review: A Family in Comedic Turmoil Rules the Roost in TABLE MANNERS

Sometimes last minute changes of director can raise a struggling play into a masterful team effort showing the brilliant humor meant to be mined from an award-winning script. Such was the case for co-director/actor David Graham when two previous directors had to step aside and he was asked to take over directing TABLE MANNERS at Little Fish two days before the first rehearsal. Along with his co-director Stephanie Coltrin, the perfect casting in all the roles and the skill of knowing just how far to take the characters in this comedy of family manners gone bad makes for two hours of close-up fun for every member of the audience.

TABLE MANNERS by Olivier Award winning playwright and director Alan Ayckbourn was the recipient of the 2009 Tony® Award for Best Revival of a Play as part of The Norman Conquests trilogy. Each of the plays depicts the same six characters over the same weekend in a different part of the same house. Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden in the garden. Each play is self-contained, and may be watched in any order with some of the scenes overlapping, and on several occasions a character's exit from one play corresponds with an entrance in another.

The six characters in the plays are the good-hearted but often immoral Norman (Don Schlossman using his rubbery facial expressions to the hilt), his successful and vain wife Ruth (Kimberly Patterson), her brother jolly good-old Reg (David Graham), his control-freak wife Sarah (Holly Baker-Kreiswirth who seems to be channeling herself at a much more extreme level), Ruth's somewhat innocent sister Annie (Maire-Rose Pike), and Tom, Annie's shy and somewhat simple Scottish next-door-neighbor played to perfection by Joel Bryant.

Often wildly comedic, the poignancy in their portrayals of the relationships among the six characters who seem to be in a constant battle of one-upmanship, right down to who gets to sit at the head of the family's dining room table, will no doubt remind you of couples in your own social group, given the knowing chuckles heard during the show from its attentive audience.

Referring often to her Mother who is ailing offstage, poor Annie fears Tom may be the only option for her when it comes to surviving her Old Main image. But Tom is too simple-minded for Annie who longs for a man who just knows what to say and how to say it to make her feel appreciated as a woman. And her good-hearted brother-in-law Norman just wants to take care of everyone and tries to keep everyone happy, especially the women. But Annie's poorly conceived illicit weekend with her brother-in-law is put on hold when all her siblings and their spouses show up and the pending affair is brought to light. But for assistant librarian Norman, who desperately needs to be needed, there are farcical consequences to the cancelled trip. Just wait until fussbudget Sarah attempts to create order around the dinner table when a musical chairs choreography exposes just how the characters really feel about each other!

"TABLE MANNERS is a witty and well-written take on what happens when politeness goes out the door and all you're left with is a hilarious weekend with people who don't really like each other," states co-director Stephanie Coltrin. She and David Graham have certainly succeeded so be ready to laugh and shake your head at the comic absurdity of it all.

Enjoy the laughter this Friday and Saturday at 8pm as the run ends on May 21 at Little Fish Theatre on Centre Street in downtown San Pedro. Tickets range from $25-27 with special dinner and a play packages available at local restaurants. For more details and ticket purchase, visit

Photos by Mickey Elliott

The cast of TABLE MANNERS (from left: Maire-Rose Pike, Kimberly Patterson, Joel Bryant, Don Schlossman, Holly Baker-Kreiswirth, David Graham

Poor Annie is surrounded by a wacky assortment of men.

Joel Bryant, David Graham, Holly Baker-­Kreiswirth and Maire-­Rose Pike unsuccessfully attempt a civilized family meal

Don Schlossman unsuccessfully woos sister-­in-law Holly Baker-Kreiswirth

Joel Bryant and Don Schlossman listen to an awful joke told by David Graham

Joel Bryant misses his shot at Don Schlossman

David Graham finds Holly Baker-Kreiswirth's control freak hysterics incredibly funny

Don Schlossman pushes his infidelity agenda with Maire­-Rose Pike to his unbelieving wife Kimberly Patterson.

Maire-Rose Pike has had enough of Don Schlossman's attempts to woo her

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From This Author Shari Barrett