Bedroom Farce

Don’t let the title fool you: Yes, there are bedrooms in this play, but no monkey business takes place in any of them. There’s not much farce, either, though there is quite a bit of gentle absurdity and laugh-out-loud comedy.

Written by legendary British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, “Bedroom Farce” tells of four married couples who are at different stages in their relationships, and whose lives intersect over the course of an evening.

First we meet Ernest (Dan Hess) and Delia (Susan Whitenight), a perfectly quaint middle-aged couple celebrating their anniversary. They are fretting over their son, Trevor (Matt Biedel), a rather dense, insensitive fellow who’s having problems with his wife, Susannah (Amy Dawn Addams), the emotional equivalent of a plane crash. Mom and Dad think Trevor should have married his first love, Jan (Jjana Valentiner Morrill), and Trevor certainly still pines for her. But Jan has married Nick (Ary Farahnakian), a whining businessman currently laid up in bed with a strained back.

While at a housewarming party for the ridiculously playful Malcolm (Casey Paul Griffiths) and Kate (Emmelyn Thayer), Susannah walks in on Trevor kissing Jan. The rest of the play is the aftermath: Susannah goes to talk it out with Delia; Trevor first plans to stay overnight at Malcolm and Kate’s, then goes to Jan and Nick’s to apologize to Nick. And so the entire play takes place in the bedrooms of Ernest and Delia, Malcolm and Kate, and Nick and Jan, all seen side-by-side on the stage.

Susan Whitenight and Dan Hess are perfect as the oldest of the four couples, brilliantly portraying a nice, lived-in relationship. They are very much in love, but are content to discuss the leak in their roof and eat sardines and toast in bed, rather than whispering sweet nothings. This is what every couple hopes to be in 20 years.

Emmelyn Thayer’s Kate is sweetly, smilingly sardonic, polite and charming as she puts others in their places. Thayer, one of BYU’s most graceful beauties, has her comic timing down to a science, and it is only she, Whitenight and Hess whose British accents are consistently good. (Everyone else is hit-or-miss. It’s funny, actually, considering how much talent is in the cast, to think that the British accent is their collective Achilles heel.)

Jjana Valentiner Morrill, a veritable workhorse in BYU theater — she seems to be in every mainstage show, every student project, and every staged reading that comes around — is compelling as Jan, the woman at the center of all the conflict. She still has feelings for Trevor, but loves her husband, too. His current condition of whining and falling around (which Farahnakian does with much humor and physical agility), along with Trevor’s advances, gives her cause to reassess things. Jan is the most complex person in the play, with more to think about than anyone else, and Morrill keeps her feelings close to the surface without fully exposing them. The subtlety is a nice choice, and deftly played by Morrill.

This is the rare small-cast show in which there are no bit parts. All eight actors are given ample opportunity to shine, and while experience causes some to stand out more than others, all eight command the stage at one point or another — from Susannah’s sudden tearful, raccoon-faced entrance, to Malcolm’s off-stage fury at trying to build something from a kit. This is a charismatic, likable group of performers, doing a show that will make you laugh a lot and think just a little.