I adore Alan Ayckbourn. THE NORMAN CONQUESTS are my favorite farces, followed closely by ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR and myriad others. Zeitgeist Stage’s riotous production of his PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES still has me giggling (and reenacting the video scene) a year later.
MY WONDERFUL DAY (up at Zeitgeist through March 26th) is not your usual Ayckbourn brand of madcap mayhem. MY WONDERFUL DAY is a slow burning ember which ignites at the end of the play. It’s like watching a Rube Goldberg contraption advance a ball which hits a lever that drops a hammer which hits a nail…You get the idea. The cogs in the machine turn like clockwork until the cuckoo pops out on the hour.
The birdie in WONDERFUL DAY is a sweet little girl’s assignment to write about her day. Her pregnant mom (Obehi Janice) cleans houses and this particular Tuesday she’s in tow, having been instructed to sit very quietly and finish her homework. Alanna Logan plays the obedient (and extremely savvy) nine year old whom none of the adults seem to notice. When mom’s water breaks (It’s like the theatrical rule about the gun: If you introduce one, it has to go off.) poor Winnie is left in this unfamiliar house with strangers who are melting down left and right. Winnie gets to witness and record it all in her notebook.
Zeitgeist veterans Becca Lewis and Craig Houk are masters of farce, the former playing the tactless, witless mistress of a television celebrity who takes advantage of his wife’s absence to invite her over. Houk can, as they say, read the phonebook and get laughs but his fitful nap and fabulous snoring in WONDERFUL DAY are reason alone to see the play. Director David Miller knows his way around farce and gives his cast lots of opportunities (and pratfalls) to prove it.
Winnie and her mom (tenderly played by Janice) practice their French every Tuesday in hopes of moving to Martinique. The stupid adults assume Winnie doesn’t understand English and Ayckbourn moves another cog into place in his comedy machine.
John Romualdi and Angela Smith are the estranged husband and wife (another cog). You know when they collide, there will be fireworks. I must admit I prefer the fast paced Ayckbourn farces where you have no time between the gags to analyze anything – but there’s something to be said for the chance to see how he carefully layers the plot and makes a strong statement about class callousness, to boot.