Theater Review: Table Manners’ doesn’t have any
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | July 18,2014
Jim Lowe / Staff Photo
From left, Robbie Harold is Sarah and Mary Scripps is Annie in Unadilla Theatre’s “Table Manners.”
MARSHFIELD — Comedy is all about human foibles, and there isn’t a much bigger one than the inability to listen. In Alan Ayckbourn’s sinfully funny comedy, “Table Manners,” the characters are almost always oblivious to everyone but themselves.
Unadilla Theatre has created a ridiculously funny production that, at Tuesday’s performance, proved amazingly consistent for community theater. And the audience couldn’t have been more pleased; it was nonstop laughter.
“Table Manners” is part of the British playwright’s 1973 trilogy, “The Norman Conquests,” joining “Living Together” and “Round and Round the Garden.” Each depicts the same six characters on the same weekend, but told from a different room in the house. And each play is complete unto itself.
In “Table Manners,” Annie is facing spinsterhood, caring for her invalid mother, despite the lackluster courting of the veterinarian Tom. Her brother Reg and his wife, Sarah, have come for the weekend so Annie can get away for a short break.
All hell breaks loose when Annie admits to the upright and uptight Sarah that her vacation is a tryst with their married brother-in-law Norman. And the comedy gets even deeper and zanier when Norman enters the scene — the most self-centered provocateur imaginable.
But “Table Manners” isn’t about plot, it’s about how oblivious people are to each other, and how painful and funny that can be.
Unadilla’s production, directed by Mary Wheeler, proved well-cast and fast-paced. Perhaps the most enjoyable comic portrayal was Bill Carmody’s droll performance as the lethargic suitor Tom, totally contrasting Mary Scripps’ exasperated and slightly sly Annie.
Robbie Harold as Sarah was responsible for some priceless comic moments, particularly when she explained — quite unconvincingly — that she was not a prude. She was contrasted by her disinterested boylike husband, Reg, played with comic glee by Thomas Badowski.
Matthew Winston was hilarious playing the oddball Norman as a clown, but the never-ending over-the-top approach became a bit wearing. Wheeler played Norman’s canny and uncaring wife, Ruth, with a sly wit.
More than hilarious comedy, Unadilla’s production of “Table Manners” revealed the characters behind the laughs.
Unadilla Theatre presents the Alan Ayckbourn comedy “Table Manners” at its older playhouse, 501 Blachly Road in Marshfield. Remaining performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 19, 23, 25, 29 and 31 and Aug. 1. Tickets are $20, $10 for children; for tickets, information or directions, call 456-8968, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go online to unadilla.org.