On Stage

The Norman Conquests

A trilogy of farces

Attend

What: The Norman Conquests

Where: Sylvia Center, 205 Prospect St.

More:

WHEN: Nov. 14-17, 21-24 and 27-30

Cost: $10-$25 for individual shows, $24-$60 for the trilogy

Info: http://www.sylviacenterforthearts.org

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

When a sextet of actors dressed in garb from the 1970s showed up at my house in late September with a photographer, costume designer and a director in tow, I wasn’t quite sure what in the hell was going on.

As a series of scenarios were set up—beginning with a solo scene featuring a bearded guy lurking outside in the herb garden, followed by enigmatic group shots in the dining room, and ending with a hair-pulling scuffle in the living room—I was filled in on the particulars. The six thespians and director Evan Mueller were prepping for upcoming performances of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests, a trilogy of farces that follows six characters over the course of a wacky weekend in the British countryside.

The three interlocking plays—Living Together, Table Manners, and Round and Round the Garden—opened at the beginning of November at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, and will play in repertory through the end of month. It’s a herculean feat of memorization and madness; all of the actors are in each of the two-hour plays, which are designed to be seen individually or as a trilogy, and don’t need to be viewed in any particular order.

That said, those who are interested in following the foibles of assistant librarian and wannabe gigolo Norman (Tyler Detrick) as he seduces his sister-in-law Annie (Gabi Gilbride), infuriates his brother-in-law Reg (Christopher Cariker), flirts with Reg’s wife Sarah (Akilah Williams), spars with his spouse Ruth (Aubrey Sage), and angers Annie’s neighbor and possible romantic interest Tom (Bradley Dillon) can see the three plays at marathons of the trilogy Nov. 23 and 30.

That’s a big commitment, but after attending a performance of Table Manners last Friday at the Lucas Hicks Theater, I can guarantee it’ll be worth your time.

Each of the adroit actors committed wholly to their roles, making for a hilarious yet human night at the theater. It was thrilling to watch real-life spouses Cariker and Williams bear their claws as a less-than-perfect couple, and Detrick’s turn as a laconic Lothario was spot-on. Gilbride shone as a put-upon sibling taking care of an aging parent who sees her chance to break out of her shell by having a fling with her sister’s husband, and Sage’s portrayal of a working woman with a vision problem is snort-worthy. Meanwhile, Dillon nails his role of a veterinarian who’s more likely to share his feelings with a horse than a flesh-and-blood woman.

I know I don’t need to see Round and Round the Garden and Living Together to find out there’s likely no perfect ending for the characters in The Norman Conquests, but I’d love to know what happens in the scenes that took place offstage during the same time frame of Table Manners. And thanks to Ayckbourn’s stellar storytelling, I can.

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