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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 10.20.11

 

A Glitch in Time

Communicating Doors offers old-fashioned farce with a temporal twist

By Rick Levin

Since the dawn of philosophical inquisition, the question of time — and, more specifically, time travel — has been the sticky caramel center inside the bite-sized chocolate of conceptual contemplation. Everyone, from St. Augustine to stoned sophomores, has wondered: What is time? And what would happen if I went back in time and, say, killed my parents? 

Such quandaries are no less intellectually stimulating for being physically impossible; they are also, when you think on it, quite hilarious, which explains the titillation to be found in British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s time-jumping farce, Communicating Doors, now at the Very Little Theatre.

Directed by Karen Scheeland, Communicating Doors is, for all its homicidal panic and theoretic flapdoodle, a very brisk and lighthearted romp — something along the lines of Oscar Wilde meets Rod Serling, with a little Back to the Future thrown in for erotic zest. The plot is a cat’s cradle woven of Silly Putty; the story jumps forward and back, in 20-year increments, between the years 2014 and 1974, as various characters are transported into ever more absurd situations by means of a magic vestibule in a hotel suite.

At the crux of this temporal turnstile is Poopay, aka Phoebe (Leslie Murray), a “special sex consultant” whose john, Reece (Michael Walker), seeks an unexpected form of release — he wants to confess rather than undress, to dump on her rather than hump on her. It turns out Reece, like some latter-day Bluebeard, has murdered a couple of wives, first Jessica (Naomi Ruiz-Todd) and then Ruella (Kathy James LaMontagne). 

This information recasts Poopay in the role of sleuth, as she repeatedly trips through time in an effort to save lives, untangle her own identity and discover what the deal is with Reece’s malignantly unctuous business partner, Julian (Michael P. Watkins). Trailing Poopay in her pursuit of the truth is Harold, the bumbling house detective (Achilles Massahos). 

Unlike the Terminator movies, where time is traversed to save humanity, nothing much is at stake in Communicating Doors. Shakespeare used mistaken identity and mixed messages to boost his comic enterprise, and Ayckbourn’s time machine is similarly just a device in the service of plot twists and punch lines. And that’s fine. Peel back the sci-fi conceit, and you’ll find an old-fashioned farce, full of bawdy repartee, promiscuous pratfalls and lots of tick-tock wordplay.

Communicating Doors is a solid piece of crowd pleasing — silly but not insubstantial, frolicsome without being forgettable. There are worse ways to waste your time. 

Communicating Doors plays through Oct. 29 at the Very Little Theatre; for times and tickets, visit TheVLT.com or call 344-7751.