John Tillinger's stagings of the New York premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's conjoined plays, House and Garden, open May 21 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage I and II, respectively.
Jan Maxwell plays the frustrated wife of a wealthy industrialist (played by Nicholas Woodeson) in House, one of a pair of related comedies presented simultaneously on two linked stages, with actors traveling between venues and stories.
A physical and timing challenge, the unique conceit by Ayckbourn (Comic Potential, Bedroom Farce, Communicating Doors) asks actors to exit House (on MTC's Stage I) and walk into a scene in Garden (on MTC's Stage II), and vice versa. Previews began April 26.
There is no particular order the shows should be seen in, and it is said a single play stands on its own, in case you only want only a morsel of Ayckbourn.
Stagings of the plays in other cities, such as Chicago, became the must-see events of the season, as theatregoers were hungry to witness what seemed like a logistical nightmare. At MTC, the true stars of the show just might be production stage managers James Fitzsimmons (House) and Barclay Stiff (Garden), and production supervisor Kate Broderick. The cast also includes Veanne Cox, Michael Countryman, Carson Elrod, Daniel Gerroll, Patricia Connolly, Laura Marie Duncan, John Curless, Ellen Parker, Bryce Dallas Howard, James A. Stephens, Olga Sosnovska and Sharon Washington.
According to MTC, in House, "Teddy Platt (Woodeson) is a wealthy industrialist in line to become a Member of Parliament. His wife Trish (Maxwell) isn't speaking to him because of his multiple infidelities. Mayhem erupts when Lucille (Sosnovska), a French film star, arrives to open the town garden fete, which the Platts are hosting. Garden focuses on the Platts' neighbors, Giles (Countryman) and Joanne Mace (Cox), whose marriage is dissolving while two bumbling caterers, Barry (Curless) and Lindy Love (Parker) wreak havoc, a backyard tent collapses, and Lucille (the French film star), has had a little too much to drink."
The performance schedule for House and Garden is 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday, with 2:30 PM matinees. Sunday performances are at 2:30 PM and 7 PM. Tickets for House ($60) and Garden ($50) can be reserved by calling (212) 581-1212. For group ticket information, call (212) 399-3000, ext. 134. Student tickets at $20 are on sale for all performances based on availability, one hour before showtime (limit four per student with valid identification). Call (212) 581-1212 for further information, or visit manhattantheatreclub.com.
Ackybourn is the author of over 60 plays including Absurd Person Singular, How the Other Half Loves, Bedroom Farce and Henceforward. He was most recently represented on Broadway with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, By Jeeves.
— By Kenneth Jones