Saturday, January 7, 2012

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Merry Mayhem By Beverly Creasey

I’m an unabashed Alan Ayckbourn fan. (THE NORMAN CONQUESTS are my favorite comedies.) Now I have a second favorite. SEASON’S GREETINGS (up at the Wellesley Summer Theatre Company through Jan 29th) covers the same treacherous familial territory but the circumstances in his holiday play are skewed sideways when a handsome writer is invited for the festivities by one hopeful sister and pursued shamelessly by two others. Ayckbourn is at his best, creating the quintessential British mix of hysteria and understatement.

The men of the family would rather be anywhere else than assisting their women. Ed (Danny Bolton) would rather read comic books. Neville (Will Keary) would rather tinker in his workshop. Bernard (Derek Stone Nelson) would rather stage puppet shows and Uncle Harvey (Ed Peed) would rather watch chase movies. In short, the men are simply hilarious. Not that their women are completely compos mentis, mind you.

One is pregnant, one is potted, one is out of her depth and one can’t wait to plunge into the deep end. It’s the stuff of legendary family gatherings. Each misunderstanding, each misstep leads to comic gold. Ayckbourn’s set-ups are as delightful as their denouements. We watch Belinda (Ashley Gramolini) eagerly eyeing the writer (Dan Roach) but our hearts are with poor, benighted Rachel (Christine Hamel) as she sabotages her own chances for romantic success.

We sympathize with pregnant Patty (Sarah Barton) but we fully understand why Ed retreats. Charlotte Peed as Phyllis gets immense laughs long before she even enters, via Bernard’s blow-by-blow descriptions of her culinary injuries. Then she does and we can’t stop the giggling. Director Shelley Bolman and company make merry perfection, right down to Nelson’s show stopping Three Little Pigs. Do not miss this gem.