Talkin’ Broadway: “A Crowd Pleaser”
Spare Stage brings the U.S. premiere of Michael Frayn’s upbeat but subtly pensive 1883 comedy about a young English couple embarking on the renting and furnishing of their first apartment to a safe landing, more or less under the radar, at the Exit’s intimate Stage Left black box. The company’s third production (its last was Stephen Dietz’s Private Eyes) again proves lean and competent, marred only by a passing sightline issue (when the characters take to their low lying bed) and some occasional strain detectable beneath otherwise respectable London accents.
Frayn (author of the historically grand yet quirkily human dramas Copenhagen and Democracy, as well as the exquisite farce-within-a-farce Noises Off) excels at exploring the imperfect balance in life between chaos and order. In Here, he evokes much of the strain and confusion love brings in the wake of its supposed harmonizing of interests and personalities, with hilarious attention to quotidian logic as well as the vagaries of memory and time.
Director Stephen Drewes focuses shrewdly on the lovers’ familiar yet guarded, playful yet worrying dialogue charmingly rendered with understated emotional precision by Sarah Eismann and Aaron Murphy as their relationship is stirred to a neurotic boil by an intrusive landlady (Annie Larson, gracefully eschewing caricature) who foists on the baggage and furniture of her own.
San Francisco Bay Times, January 29, 2009: “…a sense of human relationship [is] highly developed in this production”
The couple looks at apartments in this bare-bones staging, decides on one and moves in. They did not bargain on Pat, who owns the place. While they try to form their new life together, Pat intrudes, and makes things not easy. Pat (Annie Larson with her horn-rim glasses and imperious attitude) periodically and unannounced drops in on the couple. She has insisted that they assume ownership of her late husbands chair. Well, Phil (Aaron Murphy) is attentive to her gift. Although he hides the chair behind a curtain, he drags it out every time he thinks Pat might come around, just to show the couples dedication.
The staging and acting on the small space of EXIT Left are very well arranged. This play lends itself well to an intimate space. Frayns play contains many aspects of personal relationship. This one, with a linear plot, concerns itself magnificently with the coming-together of a new pair. From the first viewing to the eventual furnishings and vacuum cleanings, the development of the relationship between the couple is infused with a sense of human relationship, highly developed in this production.