Yes, there’s a woman running around in a bath towel in “Bedroom Farce,” the play that will kick off the 2017-18 season of Stetson’s Second Stage Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 12.
“There’s a long running joke about someone trying to get ready for a party and the guests arrive too soon, and so she has to somehow get dressed without anyone seeing her,” says director Ken McCoy, Professor of Theatre Arts at Stetson.
But, he adds, “There’s not as much farce as you’d probably think.”
Indeed, British playwright Alan Ayckbourn cheekily titled his 1975 comedy after an entire genre – the bedroom farce, aka the sex farce. Invariably in such comedies, a cheating husband hides his scantily clad mistress in his bedroom closet a split second before his wife unexpectedly returns from shopping and opens the bedroom door. Such close encounters unfold over and over.
But Ayckbourn was after a different game.
“If you look at the kernel of seriousness in his play, it’s about people who have marriage problems and who deal with temptation, and they try to figure out how and if they should stay together,” McCoy says. “So the title here is kind of happily misleading.”
“Bedroom Farce,” which McCoy says is “family friendly,” tells the tale of four married couples over the course of one night and the following morning. The oldest couple, Delia (played by Morgan Egan) and Ernest (Christian Holm Christensen) are about to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Malcolm (Steven Kalicharan) and Kate (Lily Desenberg) are preparing to host a housewarming party, to which they’ve invited two other couples, Jan (Aliya Cruise) and Nick (David Calhoun), and Susannah (Hannah Russo) and Trevor (James Robinson).
The evening gets complicated when Susannah and Trevor have a heated argument, and soon after Susannah finds Trevor kissing Jan – his ex-girlfriend. Susannah seeks solace with Delia and Ernest, who are Trevor’s parents.
But even Delia and Ernest are facing their own tribulations as a couple, despite being older and supposedly wiser.
“Ernest is a guy who gets shoved around a lot by his wife,” says Christensen, a 23-year-old senior theater major from Denmark. “They’re in that part of their marriage where they’ve been together so long that everything is nitpicking and everything is wrong but you just kind of brush it off. To an outsider it might seem that they hate each other or dislike each other, but usually the marital bond is strong, and at a point in life people can’t afford to get divorced.”
“Delia is more bossy, very reminiscent of whom Maggie Smith plays in ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” says Egan, an 18-year-old freshman from Cape Coral who’s pursuing a double major in English and international business. “She’s very tongue-in-cheek with some of her comments about others. She kind of controls and pushes Ernest around a little bit. I don’t think they’re quite near divorce but they have some issues.”
The action unfolds in three of the couples’ bedrooms, which are simultaneously viewable on the wide stage that is home to Second Stage – the theater at the Museum of Art – DeLand.
“It’s kind of like split-screen moments where someone here is talking to someone in that bedroom on a phone, while another character is doing something else,” McCoy says. “When I was talking to the lighting designers about it, something about it reminded me of paparazzi – it’s like ‘pffftt’ (imitates the sound of an old-fashioned camera flash bulb going off). It’s like ‘Here’s something, there’s something, there’s something!’ Sometimes it’s that quick – a couple of lines and it’s out.”
And yes, the cast will be performing “Bedroom Farce” using British accents – one of the biggest challenges of the production, McCoy says.
“We always try to have some kind of educational challenge in our plays,” he says. “And you almost have to do it in British accents unless you change the text, because nobody in an American accent says stuff like ‘bloody hell.’
“English theater in general is much more verbal than American theater. It’s all about talking and talking eloquently and with great diction and tempo — witty and very light. Much more so than we speak in real life here.”
For Egan, who hopes to pursue community theater wherever her international business major may take her, the required accent has been one of the joys of performing in the ensemble cast.
“I love British accents,” she says, noting she has been doing theater since she was 4 years old. “I watch a lot of British television and I’m obsessed with Harry Potter. I’ve been practicing British accents since I was little and I love Shakespeare to death.”
Another big challenge for this production: Director, cast and crew lost nine rehearsal days — 40 percent of total rehearsal time — due to the disruption caused by Hurricane Irma. Electricity at McCoy’s home was off for eight days.
McCoy and company have made up some of that time through “doubling up by rehearsing extra hours,” he says. And, he adds, when the cast returned to school “they were mainly memorized” (that is, they had spent their downtime productively by memorizing their lines).
“The way we’re doing this is more like professional actors: You show up memorized and then you work right on character and everything from the first day,” McCoy said.
– Rick de Yampert
If You Go
Stetson Theatre Arts presents “Bedroom Farce” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, through Saturday, Oct. 14, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, on its Second Stage, located inside the Museum of Art – DeLand, 600 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand.
Admission is $12 adults, and $10 seniors and non-Stetson students; free for Stetson students, faculty and staff with valid ID. Tickets will be available at the door. For information or reservations, call the Second Stage box office at 386-822-8700. Reserved tickets must be picked up 30 minutes prior to show time.