October 23, 2007

Double Take: Bedroom Farce

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Love, sex, and not-quite-rock and roll come together in Cornell’s newest play to go up this season, Alan Aykbourn’s Bedroom Farce, which opened October 17 at the Schwartz Center. This hilarious comedy about four intertwining couples and their own separate (and intertwining) problems is a romp, almost literally. In Aykbourn’s Tony-nominated play, Trevor and Suzanne’s troubled marriage seems to get in everyone’s way. Their marital fisticuffs ruin a house-warming party, strain everyone else’s marriages, severely worsen a bad back, and keep all their friends and relatives running around when all they want to do is get a good night’s sleep!
Stephen Cole, a professor, actor and director who has been with the theatre department since 1968, directs the show. Bedroom Farce is the culmination of the many comedies that Cole has directed at the Schwartz Center. He was also a co-founder of the Ithaca Repertory Theatre which is now the Hangar Theatre located in the converted Airplane Hangar just past the Commons. Cole has an eye for comedies, and an eye for young talent at Cornell, which is apparent in this production.
Six of the eight roles are played by undergraduates, predominantly freshmen and sophomores who are just beginning to make their names on the Cornell stage. Alex Viola ‘10 (Susannah) and Ian Jones ‘10 (Trevor) play the group’s more spastic pair, bringing fantastic faces and physical acting to the mix. The couple throwing the house party that starts the whole thing is played by Katie Lane ‘11 (Kate) and Jon Delikat ‘10 (Malcolm), while Akilah Terry ‘10 (Jan) and Ian Harkins ‘11 (Nick) play their misled and bedridden friends. All of these students, in addition to putting their best foot forward, or tripping over it onstage, had to learn English accents for their roles. Viola said, “The most difficult part of the experience was working on a believable British dialect. The play is written for the accent, making it extremely important that the lines sound seamless and natural for the character.”
The students also had to make some major adjustments two weeks before the show would open, when the two Resident Professional Teaching Assistants (RPTA) who were playing Trevor’s parents had to be replaced at a moment’s notice by RPTA Jeffrey Guyton (Earnest) and Equity Actress Kathleen Mary Mulligan (Delia). When these actors came in, the play was already in its finishing stages. Guyton said “The process has been like shoving Webster’s Dictionary into my brain in three days.” But it wasn’t all painful. Guyton acknowledges, “[The cast has] been incredibly supportive, emotionally supportive, which has made a difficult job palatable.” And the cast was equally grateful to Jeff. Viola praises him, saying “Jeff is really a flexible and impulsive actor; it was great to work with him.”
The set of the show is also beautifully done. The details are intoxicating and the colors expand and make the whole theatre warm. The design team consisted of Lisa Boquist (costumes), Warren Cross (sound), E.D. Intemann (set) and Ford Sellers (lights). This group came together to make a rich and inviting atmosphere that fit the play perfectly, and worked to support the humor of the production.
So why should you come see the play? “Bedroom Farce is intrinsically funny. You feel completely connected to the characters and their poor little mishaps,” Viola says. According to Guyton, students should come see the show because “the students in it are the major part of it. It’s a really strong ensemble of actors, and it is full of humor that’s language and wit based. And it’s just fun!”
Bedroom Farce is playing 24-27 at 7:30 p.m., and 27-28 at 2 p.m. There will be a post-show discussion with actors and designers on Thursday, Oct. 25.