BWW Review: COMMUNICATING DOORS at SBCC Theater Group
Alan Ayckbourne's Communicating Doors, produced by the SBCC Theatre Group, follows Poopay (Felicia Hall), a blue-collar London dominatrix who shows up at a luxury hotel to service wealthy business mogul, Reece (Matt Smith), but instead gets pressured into witnessing his deathbed confession of embezzlement and murder. On the run from Reece's homicidal business partner, Julian (George Coe), who isn't keen on being outed for his part in the murder of Reece's two deceased wives, Ruella (Leslie Gangle Howe) and Jessica (Brittany Harter), Poopay hides in a hotel closet. The closet houses a time portal that takes her back twenty years to the night of Ruella's murder, in the very same hotel suite. Poopay and Ruella team up to prevent the murder, thus changing the past and altering the future for everyone.
Directed by Katie Laris, Communicating Doors has a talented cast and an alluring concept, but there's no good reason for this modern, British farcical comedy to run two and half hours. It's slow to take off, and meanders leisurely to conclusion, generally lacking a heightened tone to gives the jokes punch. It's certainly important to find moments of emotional realism in comedies that depends on the audience committing to the believability of absurd situations; but without a balance of madcappery to set the tone, the parade of preposterousness feels like a tiresome exercise in inefficiency.
The play has a lot of elements that work well: it looks good (scenic and light design by Patricia L. Frank; costume design by Pamela Shaw), it sounds good (sound design by Ben Crop), the time machine is a cool stage effect that screams campy sci-fi, and the projections are a stylish way to denote era in a play that uses the same set for a number of different timelines. Leslie Gangl Howe, as Ruella, anchors the production as the soon-to-be-thrown-out-the-window second wife with a wry, upper-crust disdain that persists even in the face of imminent danger. She's flanked by Brittany Harter's quirky debutante and Felicia Hall's scrappy whore-with-a-heart-of-gold. A little urgency might propel this play into a stronger comedic territory, but too many inexplicable moments (and too much time for the audience to consider them) puts viewer commitment to the farce at risk.
Directed by Katie Laris
March 2-17, 2018