WOMAN IN MINDBy Alan Ayckbourn
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Directed by J. Alan Hanna
Set Design - Andy Redmon
Costume Design - Rhonda Gorman
Lighting Design - Bridget Doan
Sound Design - Andrea Allmond & Jordana Abrenica
Properties Design - Lynn Mauldin
Stage Manager - Steven Merritt
Susan - Dana Harrison
Bill - David Smith
Andy - Charles Maxham
Lucy - Stephanie Fischer
Tony - Scottie Corley
Gerald - Neil Rogers
Muriel - Janye Anderson
Rick - Cole De Schepper
Reviewed Performance: 1/21/2012
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I knew the moment I saw Alan Ayckbourn's name attached to this show it was going to be a fun evening. Somewhere between the crazed absurdity of Tom Stoppard and the sobriety of Peter Shaffer is Alan Ayckbourn. I first came to know his work as a sophomore at Murray State University when I was cast in his time traveling dramatic farce Communicating Doors.
Also, he was later a subject in my Theatre History & Literature II course. Because of this familiarity with Ayckbourn's other work, being a fan of Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard, and Theatre of the Absurd, and knowing Ayckbourn's love of plot twists, I was delighted when the show went "tits up", as the British would say, in the final scene.
Ayckbourn has an affinity for language and uses it, often subtly, in his shows. In Communicating Doors, a character changes her past from one of working class to refined socialite as the audience witnesses her change British dialects mid-sentence. The same language play is used in Woman in Mind. ICT, ensuring the language is used correctly, hired Dialect Coach Robert Clover Brown for this production, demonstrating the great attention to detail that was paid.
ICT Mainstage has a well earned reputation for producing high quality productions and they certainly deliver with Woman in Mind. Andy Redmon's set design is exquisite.
The front of the stage is decorated as a simple backyard accentuated by a disappearing/reappearing expansion, including trees and a bridge, behind a scrim upstage of the main set. This use of lighting and setting helped establish the scene as the play drifts between Susan's realities.
Not often enough are we allowed to see an actor revel in a role as we do with Dana Harrison during the final scene of Woman in Mind. As she manically bounces around her garden in a rainstorm, we are granted a view of what J. Alan Hanna must have seen when he cast Harrison in the role. Of course, Harrison's ability to take on a complex role like Susan is no surprise for those of us who remember her portrayals of Clairee from Steel Magnolias and Louise Seger in Always...Patsy Cline.
I must also acknowledge Neil Rogers' performance as Susan's husband Gerald, a role which seems most suitably written for Tim Curry. With just the right balance of comedy and severity, Rogers plays the part of Susan's conservative husband, trying to cope with the family life he's been given.
Cole de Schepper not only makes his ICT debut with Woman in Mind but also his North American debut. For the first performance outside of his native Belgium, Cole takes on the role of Susan and Gerald's son Rick, a mild young-man recently freed from a cult, who returns home to tell his parents he and his new wife will be moving to Thailand. Rick has been traumatized by his mother's overt sexuality and generally avoids contact with the family because of it. Cole De Schepper plays the role expertly and fits in nicely with the rest of the wonderful cast.
Also making his American debut is David Smith in the role of Bill, the bumbling doctor. Originally from England, Smith has spent the last three years in Munich, Germany where he was a member of an English speaking theatre group. David Smith's humorous portrayal of a slightly inept doctor who doesn't know how to handle a special case like Susan's, and somehow finds himself in the middle of the family's conflicts, makes the antics of other characters in the show seem almost understandable.
In accordance to ICT Mainstage's commitment to excellence, Woman in Mind has very few technical difficulties. The volume level on a chirping bird sound effect drowned out the conversation on stage and prompted statements of "Really?" and "Oh my goodness" from the ladies behind me. Also, what I believe to be a directorial decision in the final moment of the play diminished the experience some. A piece of scenery is revealed that I am not sure is actually mandated by the script or necessary. As the show becomes more and more absurd the audience is left with more and more questions. However, one of these questions may have been answered, with the introduction of this set piece, for us instead of being left for discussion after the show.
A Woman in Mind is an excellent way to spend a night out. Highlighted by terrific performances from the entire cast, it cannot be recommended enough. Prepare to laugh and leave with questions at the end of the night.
Dupree Theater, Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Irving, TX 75062
Fridays & Saturdays, January 20th , 21st , 27th , 28th ,
February 3rd , 4th at 8:00 pm.
Thursday, February 2nd at 8:00 pm.
Sundays, January 22nd & 29th at 2:30 pm.
Friday, Saturday & Sunday: $21 Adults, $19 Seniors/Students
Thursday: $18 Adults, $16 Seniors/Students
Student Rush: $5 cash 5 minutes before curtain if seats available
For information and to purchase tickets, call their box office at (972) 252 2787.
Or visit www.irvingtheatre.org and click on "Online Tickets".