LCP opens up a Can of Warms
By Carey Weinberg
Sexual betrayal, a little bit of violence and a bunch of laughs is how London Community Players decided to open up their "24-Karat Gold" season. "Living Together" is the second part of the "Norman Conquests" trilogy by Alan Ayckbourn.
LCP staged the first part of the trilogy "Table Manners" last season. "Living Together's" director Dan Ebbs assembled the same cast who appeared in last year's play. Like most of London's safe stagings, the play would fall under the category of: "A delightful comedy about..." In other words, fluffy.
The phenomenal aspect of the trilogy is that all three plays can be run simultaneously or on their own. Whether or not you saw last year's play is inconsequential. The strength of this play is based in the core of six actors and their previous experience working together and with their characters.
That experience translates the moment the lights go up and the audience is privy to the inner-workings of this dysfunctional family. Norman, played by stage-veteran Jake Levesque, has his plans to take Annie (Sue Mei, understudied by Anne-Marie Caicco) away for a weekend thwarted. Annie happens to be his sister-in-law.
Jake pulls off a sweet performance of a perhaps immoral, but definitely likable, character. He is a womanizer with charm. That charm, of course, gets him into a dollop of trouble.
Annie (played by Caicco opening night) is totally confused, as her feelings of isolation overwhelm her. Caicco (who previously appeared in LCP's "Isn't it Romantic") executed a charged performance in conveying her volatility caused by her confusion. Part of her isolation stems from the fact she is left to care for her sick mother. One of the cast's strengths is its ability to create the mother's presence, without her actually making an appearance.
Annie's brother Reg (Dale Bell) and his wife Sarah (Carol Robinson-Todd) are incredibly fun to watch. Some brilliant comic moments arise out of a game Bell created, which he forces his family to play . Robinson-Todd has been blessed with impeccable comic timing as she fluidly moves through the various aspects of her neurotic character.
Norman's wife Ruth, (Virginia Pratten who most recently appeared in Western production of "All's Well That End's Well") steps into the fray in the second act to add more pandemonium and chaos. Pratten's clear and natural delivery is an asset to this production. Ruth is a driven career woman who lost interest in her husband's antics some time ago. This is part of Norman's reason for his lascivious nature: lack of love on the home front.
A troubling part of the play is inherent in the often naked script. Ruth teases her sister Annie for having slept with Norman the previous Christmas, but never truly gets angry with her.
Tom (Mark Mooney) is Annie's suitor. He plays a wonderfully stupid man. As an audience member you empathize with his inability to express his affections to Annie while shaking your head at his dimness.
The true pleasure in watching this play comes from the actors' presence on the stage. Their fluency in delivering dialogue makes the play breeze by. Collectively, the cast conveys a sense of actually living together and experiencing the pleasures and pains of family life.
"Living Together" plays Sept 6 through Sept. 20. Tickets are $12. for regular folk and $10.for seniors and students, available at the Grand Theatre Box Office. Curtain goes up at 8 p.m., don't be tardy.
©Judy Carins/Off Broadway Photography
ALADDIN NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD. Rug burn can be something to cherish according to Norman (Jake Levesque) and Ruth (Virginia Pratten) overseen by Reg (Dale Bell)