‘Confusions’ is four–er, five–mini-plays rolled into one
LOS ANGELES–One of the most exquisitely exciting experiences that you can have—in public, at least—is watching a brilliant troupe of actors performing a well-written, well-directed, thoroughly engrossing play. Such an experience is available now at The Lost Studio in Los Angeles, where the American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1974 play, Confusions, has just opened. Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Britain’s Neil Simon, has written more than 70 plays (including The Norman Conquests and Absurd Person Singular) and won the highest awards a play can receive (a Tony, an Olivier, et al).
With Confusions he has produced five plays in one—all of them poignant, engaging, and hilarious. The overall theme is the human desire to connect—to be responded to, to make contact with another human being, and the confusion and isolation that results when that desire is not met. And also the hilarity that ensues when people who are not really listening to each other go off on their own separate tangents. In “A Talk in the Park,” the amazing Brendan Hunt constructs a non-stop monologue with a girl who couldn’t be less interested and doesn’t respond. They are sitting on a stone bench next to two other benches occupied by the other four principals in this production. Who are they, you wonder, and what are they doing there?
In the next mini-play, “Mother Figure,” Steve Wilcox, whom we recognize from the bench, plays the next-door neighbor of the very pregnant Lucy (Mina Badie) and the husband of Rosemary (Abigail Revasch). Wilcox has come to fetch his wife from Lucy’s, but gets caught up instead in Lucy’s compulsive mothering. She forces him to finish his milk (served in a sippy-cup) and chides him for taking more than one cookie. Meanwhile, her own brood of innumerable kids is shouting and banging around offstage.
In “Drinking Companions,” Hunt, who turns out to be a traveling salesman in “howt cotewer” and the husband of the overbearing Lucy, is trying to pick up an attractive woman (Phoebe James) in a hotel bar. He couldn’t be more clumsy at it, and when her friend (Abigail Revasch) joins her, he comes on to both of them, plying them with drinks and insipid blather. In the restaurant of the same hotel Adrian Neil and his wife, Bridget Ann White, are having dinner when Steve Wilcox and Phoebe James are seated at the next table. The dialogue in this scene, “Between Mouthfuls” escalates to arguments and tears, while the very proper waiter (Hunt again) hovers between them, trying to remain oblivious and get the damn dinners served.
The final act, “Gosforth’s Fete”, disintegrates into pure farce as the hapless Mr. Gosforth (Adrian Neil) attempts to set up a small-town festival despite the pouring rain. And when none of the microphones and speakers work, he laments that the scheduled community sing will become a “community hum.”
And thus, “Gosforth’s Fete” becomes Gosforth’s fate, as the rest of the cast joins him in disaster. And finally, in something of an epilogue, the six bench-sitters are once again on their benches in the park, fulminating about their lives and concerns and not being listened to.
It’s a wonderful play, and under John Pleshette’s impeccable direction it becomes a tour de force for each of the players. Their timing is flawless, their acting is superb, and you simply couldn’t ask for a more delightful production.
Confusions will continue at The Lost Studio, 130 South La Brea Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Streets, in Los Angeles, Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m. and Sundays at 4 through March 7th. Call (323) 960-5775 for reservations. Right away!
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