By CHUCK GRAHAM
Painting with broad strokes while throwing in lots of funny walks, Live Theatre Workshop has turned British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy “Living Together” into a show full of silly twits. There’s no gesture so ridiculous it can’t become a part of this production directed by Stephen Frankenfield. Flouncing and bouncing around the stage are very popular. There’s not a proper Brit in the cast.
Norman, the local Lothario, has his way with a trio of sisters forever kept off balance by their own sibling rivalries. Each has a different kind of annoying personality. None seems particularly bright, but all become helpless once Norman in his fumbling way turns his attention to their individual needs.
Their weakness for Norman must be genetic.
“Living Together” is the middle play of an Ayckbourn trilogy aptly titled “The Norman Conquests.” Love in all its illicit manifestations is the subject. That and making fun of middle-class attempts to act upper class, which is always fun. No one stuffs a shirt better than an aspiring Englishman putting on airs.
In Norman’s case, it’s more like Napoleon Dynamite trying to get a date. The most remarkable part is that he succeeds. And often. Cliff Madison plays the randy Norman, a man too obtuse to realize he has no redeeming charms whatsoever.
He does have a hunter’s instincts for knowing intuitively that these particular women don’t get out much. He can bamboozle them into just about anything.
Not that Norman gets much competition. Reg (Jeremy Thompson) has the personality of a computer geek with a mismatched wardrobe. But instead of designing video games, he creates board games – boring board games nobody wants to play. Reg is married to starchy Sarah (Lisa Mae Roether), a wife disappointed with her life and none too sure what to do about it.
Also on the scene is neighbor Tom (Jonathan Northover) the bachelor veterinarian. He’s a shy fellow more comfortable with household pets than he is with people. But Tom is single so everybody else in this family figures Tom is perfect for spinster sister Annie (Molly Holleran).
Everybody, that is, but Annie. She wants to be involved with Norman. However, Annie has accepted the responsibility of looking after her ailing mother. For this, she gets no respect from sister Sarah or sister Ruth (Delani D. Cody), a particularly rules-minded woman married to … trumpet fanfare … Norman.
Aha! Committed to the principle that what goes around comes around, Norman is happy to let family affairs take their natural course.
On this particular weekend of “Living Together,” Norman has finally got the arrangements set for a weekend getaway with Annie. It’s their first assignation since Christmas. Of course, this is exactly the same weekend when patronizing Reg and Sarah pop in for a surprise visit, so Annie might have some time alone with Tom.
Everyone starts feeling frustrated once Reg and Sarah realize Annie has been planning on some private time with Norman. Everyone but clueless Tom, that is. He gets pingponged all about while being unaware he’s keeping Annie from being with Norman. So the ever-resourceful Norman figures if Annie is unavailable, he might as well put a smile on Sarah’s face.
Once Ruth makes her entrance to open Act 2, the wickets get really sticky. It turns out she knows all about Norman’s plans with Annie. Ruth wants him to just have his weekend and get it over with.
Wouldn’t you know, as Ayckbourn has constructed this play, Norman’s most important conquest will be with his own wife.
Graham’s grade: B.
if you go
What: Live Theatre Workshop presents “Living Together” by Alan Ayckbourn.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 28.
Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.
How much: $15-$13.
Details: For reservations, call 327-4242.