"Farce that's fierce at heart"
by David C. Nichols
"Although 'Things We Do For Love,' Alan Ayckbourn's 1997 split-level guandrangle, has its cynical idiosyncrasies, director Barry Philips' excellent players crack the farcical veneer of this Oliver-nominated dramedy's elegant local premiere, locating its aching undercurrents with delicate assurance. While lacking the hysteria of Ayckbourn's masterworks, its bruised acerbity is wickedly engrossing."
Reviewed By Madeleine Shaner
"Nash is likeably bitchy, if you're not at the wrong end of her biting tongue,
and she looks great, with or without clothes."
"Big Mac in London"
by Cynthia Citron
"Nash, especially, carries the play: she is extraordinary. With wry humor and amazing grace she falls in love, all the while anguishing over the pain she is about to inflict on her old friend."
by Ed Kaufman
Alan Ayckbourn’s “Things We Do for Love” (a Los Angeles premiere at the Odyssey) is a sharp, witty, wonderfully funny, well-acted and insightful farcical comedy of misunderstandings.
Ayckbourn who has written more than 60 plays, nearly all involving the English middle class has penned a bittersweet comedy about the effects of love. And typical of writer Ayckbourn, the play is designed with an onstage gimmick that initially suggests a sitcom.
Although Don Llewellyn’s ingenious set design suggests sitcom, “Thing We Do for Love” tackles a conventional love triangle from the world weary and wise (and often glum) eyes of Ayckbourn.
All takes place in the fanatically neat ground-floor living room of Victorian apartment owner Barbara (Stephanie Nash), the 40ish, unmarried and spiky assistant to a successful businessman who has put her life into an emotional deep freeze and firmly closed the lid. But he set also reveals the top two feel of the basement flat and the bottom two feet of the bedroom flat above Barbara’s.
In the basement, Gilbert (Greg Mullavey), a lovelorn postman, is painting a gigantic nude of Barbara on his ceiling like Michelangelo with a fetish. Meanwhile, the upstairs flat is being let by Barbara to her gushy, one-of-life’s-natural-victims Nikki (Caitlin Shannon) and her oceanographer, vegetarian Scottish fiancé Hamish (James Tupper.)
The prim, strict Barbara takes an instant dislike to the bearded Hamish, but mutual irritation gradually gives way to lust, then to love. The emotional fallout is terrible to behold, involving physical injury, wanton destruction and a ferocious fight between Barbara and Hamish.
Ayckbourn’s characteristically glum point is that the things we do for love are cruel, selfish and downright ridiculous and that one person’s happiness of often another’s terrible hurt. But when “love happens,” we simply have to go along wherever it might take us. So much for the Gospel of Love according to Ayckbourn.
The ensemble Mullavey, Nash, Shannon and Tupper is simply terrific. Nash is marvelous in the tricky role as Barbara, a seemingly iced-up woman who still manages to break into tears as she describes her boss’ wonderful life with this wife and children. Shannon is a first-rate Nikki, who invites others to treat her terribly, while Tupper (Hamish) suggests a dark side to his bland interior. And Mullavey (as postman Gilbert) is devastating as one of life’s loquacious losers.
Credit Barry Philips for the savvy and spot-on direction.
“Emotions pile up behind “Love’s” veneer of farce”
by David C. Nichols
Bittersweet bite distinguishes “Things We Do for Love” now receiving an elegant local premiere at the Odyssey Theatre. Virtuoso playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s Olivier-nominated dramedy lines the contradictions of passion with politically incorrect perception.
“Things” rocked London in 1997 and spawned many regional readings, through some observer have found it more disturbing than delightful. However, Ayckbourn’s trademark geometry here applies more to structure than narrative content, and the cynical idiosyncrasies mask acute emotional point.
The play’s cutaway setting, beautifully designed by Don Llewellyn, depicts a converted London townhouse. Its owner is Barbara (Stephanie Nash), who is introduced from the legs down just below the proscenium, where tenant Gilbert (Greg Mullavey) is repairing an upstairs radiator.
Career-driven Barbara is prepping the upper flat for divorced schoolmate Nikki (Caitlin Shannon) and her new fiancé, Hamish (James Tupper). He and Barbara have instant, vintage antipathy, while Gilbert, whose basement unit has shoulders-up visibility beneath the stage, harbors disquieting longings for his landlady.
`This split-level quadrangle echoes Joe Orton, Noel Coward, Tom Stoppard, and well, Alan Ayckbourn, and that’s how director Barry Phillips stages it. His excellent players locate the aching undercurrents beneath the farcical veneer with delicate assurance. Nash’s brittle appeal and precise timing are ideal against Tupper’s rumpled, ambivalent charisma, and their climactic fracas is a knockout.
Shannon’s naïf is hilariously touching, and Mullavey underplays his obsessive with Chekhovian economy.
Suzanne Scott’s sly wardrobe and Kathi O-Donohue’s customary ace lighting contribute to a fine design showing. Opening night found even the odd spotty tempo or technical mishap turned to involving advantage.
“Things We Do For Love” may lack the hysteria of Ayckbourn’s masterworks, but its bruised acerbity is wickedly engrossing.
"THINGS WE DO FOR LOVE can generate exceeding pleasure or excruciating pain, consequences hilariously examined in the L.A. premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1997 comedy. The piece revolves around four outwardly proper Londoners: prim single secretary, Barbara (Stephanie Nash); Barbara’s old school chum and ardent admirer, Nikki (Caitlin Shannon); Nikki’s loyal fiancé, Hamish (James Tupper); and Barbara’s solicitous basement tenant, Gilbert (Greg Mullavey). In typical Ayckbourn fashion, a dysfunctional romantic roundelay strips bare each character’s genteel veneer, revealing enough secrets, neuroses and fetishes for a Freudian field day. Director Barry Philips balances the comic and tragic aspects of each character without reducing them to caricatures, most especially Nash’s Barbara, whose gruff exterior masks an aching vulnerability, and Shannon’s Nikki, whose perkiness soothes her horrid experiences with a previous lover. Don Llewellyn’s three-tiered set, showing just a quarter of the upstairs flat to shed a more humorous light on the carnal shenanigans, complements the subtle layers of Ayckbourn’s work as well as conscious and subconscious levels of the human psyche. Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; mats Sun., May 16, 30 & June 13, 2 p.m.; thru July 4. (310) 477-2055.
Written 05/13/2004 (Martín Hernández)
KCLA, American Radio Network
Gerri Garner’s Entertainment File
The Odyssey Theatre has Alan Ayckbourn’s 52nd full length play “Things We Do For Love. This is the Los Angeles Premiere of Ayckbourn’s 1997 comedy.
This comic farce is the story of four upper class, very prim, very proper Londoners. The plot starts in the home of spinster secretary Barbara (Stephanie Nash), who has an anal retentive controlling personality. When her tenant moves out, an old school mate, Nikki, (Caitlin Shannon), who looked up to her, is moving in for a while with her fiancé, Hamish (James Tupper.) The two women haven’t seen each other for seven years. The blissful couple are redoing a home they will be moving into, so this is just for a little while. Add to this mix the nutty postal worker, Gilbert, hilariously portrayed by Greg Mullavey, who lives in the basement of this row house. He helps out doing odd repair jobs.
The layers of who these people really are outrageously unfold, and their ludicrous fetishes, and neuroses bubble to the surface like crude oil. The evening is a teasing, off the wall experience, as each person is not who we came to believe they were on their first impression.
Barry Phillips directs these terrific actors in this smashing comedy production. Don Llewellyn’s smart three-story set, that wisely only lets us see their feel while sexual trysts are afoot. Ayckbourn scores another bull’s-eye and what a tremendous night of diversion as psyches are laid bare. IT is our critic’s Pick!
“Things We Do For Love”, playing at the Odyssey Theatre, at 2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard, plays Wed through Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm. For information & reservations please call 310-477-2055.
By JULIO MARTINEZ
"What starts out as a barbed, Noel Cowardesque romantic comedy gets downright sexy by the end of act one....The ensemble rises to the task. Nash's Barbara is quite believable as the cool martinet whose repressed passion gushes forward in a torrent as soon as she realizes Hamish wants her."