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Farcical Taking Steps is sheer silliness
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Farcical Taking Steps is sheer silliness

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Taking Steps
Phoenix Theatre
Through May 2


Alan Ayckbourn is a master of farce. A fun example of a great farce is Taking Steps at Phoenix Theatre. Director MaryBeth Dagg gets her team hopping around the stage adroitly, barely missing each other, even though they are on different floors of a three-story house. That's one of Ayckbourn's classic stylings: he likes the house to be played flattened out, but to maintain the fiction that there are multiple levels. So there's a pretend "regular" staircase between the ground floor and the upstairs bedrooms, and a pretend "circular" staircase that leads to the attic. The actors must climb up and down the stairs each time while not actually changing heights. It never fails to amuse, no matter how many stairs they mime climbing.

The basics: Elizabeth (Meredith Armstrong) has been married for three months and she's already sick of being adored and wants out to go back to her life as a (bad) TV dancer. She recruits her brother Mark (Rick Wright) to take her to the train station, but he's upset because he needs to pick up his erstwhile fiancée Kitty (Melanie Calderwood) and doesn't think Elizabeth should be ending her marriage so quickly.

Husband Roland (Frank Lawler) is getting ready to buy a creepy old house from Leslie Bainbridge (James Lyle) and has his solicitor's office bring him the paperwork. Mr. Watson (Jay Jenkins) from the solicitor's brings the paperwork to the house. However, the house is so ostensibly large that people can be in it and not know anyone else is there.

This is where the farce builds. One goes up to the attic to sleep, others are drinking themselves to a stupor in the living room, then stumbling up the stairs to the attic to sleep, so someone gets stuck in the attic closet not knowing who was coming up the stairs, and the owner lets himself in with his own key wearing motorcycle leathers and a helmet and is mistaken for an intruder. Watson is told there's a ghost in the house that gets into bed with people and kills them, and then when he is in bed, a strange woman gets in bed with him, so he thinks he's going to die. Then there are notes written as "goodbye" messages that are mistaken for suicide notes. It's all sheer silliness.

A singularly offbeat and funny performance by Jay Jenkins tops the strong performances (after a bit of a slow start). The comic business is well-timed. Each character has his/her own moments of high hilarity, including poor Kitty (Calderwood), who spends most of her time on stage stuck in a closet.

The script is especially good at making a joke come back around for a second bite. A well-designed set by Dick Floyd and lights and sound by Rick Wright keep all the gags moving.

For more information, go to www.phoenixtheatreedmonds.webs.com or call 206-533-2000. Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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