BWW Review: TAKING STEPS at The Pear Theatre In Mountain View, CA
DIRECTED BY Troy Johnson
Confusion and chaos abound in Alan Ayckbourn's fantastically fun farce "Taking Steps" now playing at the Pear Theatre in Mountain View, CA In a decaying three story Victorian house relationships are falling apart. A heavy drinking tycoon and his wife, the husbands bumbling lawyer, the seller of the property, and the tycoon's brother-in-law with his fiancee (?) set off a cacophony of action - all on a single stage floor
The Pear Theatre threads an intricately interwoven tale strewn with fun and laughs. Imagine that you could take 3 floors of a house and smash them down into one. Now, add the fact that there are people on each floor (now one) who carry on without being able to see anyone from the other floors (even though the audience sees them sharing the same stage). Add in a couple of staircases, that have also been flattened for non-stop action as the story unfolds.
As the show opens we find Roland Crabbe and his wife Elizabeth living in an old mansion that they are considering purchasing. The Blustery Crabbe has made buckets of money as, yes, a bucket manufacturer. "Liz" fashions herself an aspiring "artiste" in the dancing world, but in reality was more of a back row go-go dancer. As the lights go up we actually find Liz writing a "dear John" letter to Roland as she seeks freedom in her life.
Mark (Liz's brother) wants to open a fishing store and is visiting in hopes of securing a loan from Roland. We also find Yamaha motorcycle riding Leslie Bainbridge who's desperate for quick closing on the haunted house he's trying to get Roland to buy. Together these four represent the self-centered quartet who create a dark self-absorbed undertone to the farce.
Trapped between the dark four are the socially awkward lawyer Tristram, who has been sent by his boss to finalize the house deal, and Mark's fiancee Kitty who is reluctant to be there. These two are able to navigate the "steps" that provide a deeper meaning to the plot.
Todd Wright, as Roland Crabbe, gives the hard drinking character a sharp edge. We can see why Liz feels confined with his lack of listening and constant interrupting ways. Betsy Kruse Craig, as Elizabeth Boxer Crabbe, is a power presence on stage. No shrinking violet, Ms Craig expands the stage with her layers of facial expression and perfectly timed movements.
David Boyll, as Mark Boxer, projects as much starch as his jacket. Boyll, from the early moments of the show, lets the audience know that he's that guy who always thinks he has the best ideas if he only had the money to back them up. Matt Brown, as Leslie Bainbridge, plays with the desperation of the character even when it appears hopeless. He gives "Leslie" some fine moments with all his motorcycle accoutrement.
Max Tachis, as Tristram Watson, captures center stage as the bumbling lawyer. If Don Knotts and Billy Crystal had an embarrassingly inarticulate younger brother Tachis would be that person. His pauses in the timing add to the awkwardness and his physical comedy is a hoot to watch. Roneet Aliza Rahamim, as Kitty, is perfectly pensive in the first act, but her efforts to escape add much to the hilarity.
Overall, the production works well and the timing of the sound effects of the old house add an extra dimension. Costume designs catch the light at all the right times, and the scenic design plays well with the clockwork of choreographed movement throughout. While this farce doesn't have the quips and one-liners of more mainstream comedies, you'll find yourself chuckling from one scene to the next.
This production runs about 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission. Get there a bit early for the best seats. Parking is plentiful right next to the building. There is a nice selection of drinks and treats.
JAN 17 - FEB 9. Tickets at www.thepear.org or call (650) 254-1148
PEAR THEATRE is at 1110 LA AVENIDA STREET • MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA 94043