Alan Ayckbourn is back at the Odyssey Theatre, the British playwright’s West Los Angeles “home away from home,” with his 1975 smash Bedroom Farce, While not exactly a farce per se (there are no slamming doors or mistaken identities), Bedroom Farce nonetheless provides two hours of frothy fun, particularly in its wild-and-crazy second act.

Like Ayckbourn’s gazillion other comedy hits, Bedroom Farce has its own unique gimmick.  It takes place entirely inside the bedrooms of three very different couples during one eventful night and the following morning.

On our right are Ernest and Delia (Robert Mandan and Maggie Peach), the oldest and most sedate of the play’s four couples, about to step out for their umpteenth wedding anniversary dinner.  Center stage are Malcolm and Kate (Jamie Donovan and Kate Hollinshead), preparing for a housewarming party in their as yet not quite fully furnished and decorated new home.  On our left are Nick and Jan (Scott Roberts and Ann Noble), the former of whom will spend Bedroom Farce’s two acts mostly bedridden, the result of a sprained back, while Jan heads off to Malcolm and Kate’s. 

There’s a fourth couple as well, Trevor and Susannah (Anthony Michael Jones and Regina Peluso), the only pair whose bedroom we don’t see, but a  couple with connections to the other three. Trevor is Ernest and Delia’s son and used to date Jan before marrying Susannah, and both Trevor and Susannah are friends of Malcolm and Kate. 


Following a marital row with Susannah in his party hosts’ bedroom, Trevor impulsively kisses Jan (his ex), only to have his wife walk in and find the former lovers in a clinch.  Since the home she shares with Trevor is the last place Susannah wants to be right now, she decides to crash at her in-laws’ home.

Got that?

Bedroom Farce’s amusing first act sets us up for its even funnier second act, with Susannah and Trevor popping from bedroom to bedroom to their friends’ and family’s consternation—and audience glee.

Under Ron Bottitta’s snappy direction, the entire cast of Bedroom Farce give colorful, distinctive performances.  

As stuffy, conservative Ernest, Mandan (whose career goes back to his 1960s role as Sam Reynolds on daytime TV’s Search For Tomorrow) proves himself as gifted a comedian at 78 as he was a dramatic actor in his 30s. Opposite him, the delightful Peach gives a peach of a performances as the somewhat more free-wheeling Delia, who enjoys “really really wicked” activities like eating sardines and toast in bed.

Donovan and Hollinshead do equally smashing work as practical jokesters Malcolm and Kate, who get their kicks hiding boots and kitchen utensils from each other under their bedcovers and pillows.  Donovan gets great mileage from Malcolm’s attempts to construct a do-it-yourself nightstand, while the authentically English Hollinshead is charmingly adept at expressing Kate’s frustration at his ineptitude.

StageSceneLA favorites Roberts and Noble couldn’t be better as Nick and Jan. Roberts proves himself a hilarious physical comedian as he attempts, without getting out of bed, to retrieve a book he’s kicked off the edge, only to find himself supine on the floor with no way to get back where he came from. Noble, more frequently a dramatic actress (e.g. the recent London’s Scars), turns out to be an equally terrific comedienne, as when the sensible Jan attempts to deal with a jealous husband with lines like, “I went to bed with all the other men at the party, but I onlykissed Trevor.”

Funniest of all are Jones and Peluso, he as hippy-dippy Trevor and she as “dangerously potty” and “very, very very dim” but “quite sweet natured” Susannah.  A particularly droll Jones manages the considerable feat of falling asleep in the most bizarre chair-like contraption imaginable.  Peluso, meanwhile, gives a doozy of a performance as a woman so woefully lacking in self confidence that she bursts out in self-help psychobabble whenever she finds herself alone: “I am confident in myself.  I have confidence in myself.  I am not unattractive.  People still find me attractive.  I am not afraid of people.  People are not frightening.  There is nothing to be frightened of…”  This alone is worth the price of admission.

Scenic designer Darcy Prevost’s excellent set proves Delia spot-on when she remarks that “you can tell a great deal from people’s bedrooms.” There’s Ernest and Delia’s (sturdy, old-fashioned, and dark hued), Malcolm and Kate’s (unmade bed, unfinished wall-papering, nearly furniture free), and Nick and Jan’s (upscale and trendy)—each as different as night is to day. Kathi O’Donohue does her usual bang-up work as lighting designer, directing focus and enhancing moods. Kathryn Poppen’s costume designs capture 1975 polyester in all its wonderful awfulness.  Hayley Huntley is assistant director, Julie Simpson is production stage manager, and Dane Martens graphic designer.

Thanks to the Odyssey, I’m now able to add Bedroom Farce to the list of Ayckbourn comedies I’ve enjoyed over the years, a list which includes crackerjack Odyssey productions of A Chorus Of Disapproval, Taking Steps, and How The Other Half Loves.  While it may not be as hysterically funny as say Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, or the best of British farceur extraordinaire Ray Cooney’s oeuvre, Bedroom Farce makes for as enjoyable an evening of clever writing and fine comedic performances as you’re likely to see around town these days.

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
July 28, 2010
                                                                                                         Photos: Ron Sossi


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