A Chorus Of Disapproval

Review by Willard Manus

Alan Ayckbourn has often been called the British Neil Simon. Both men are prolific and successful comic writers for the Broadway/West End theatre. Ayckbourn, though, normally shows a dark strain beneath the surface of his comedies, especially when he deals with death (Absurd Person Singular is an example). And he almost always deals with complex human relationhips in a light but probing, insightful way.

In A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL, though, Ayckbourn stays away from darkness and complexity, settling (as Simon so often does) for a sunnier, more superficial kind of comedy. The play, now on tap at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in a production skilfully directed by Barry Philips, is a backstage farce about a dysfunctional amateur company rehearsing a production of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Matthew Elkins, in a star turn, plays Dafydd Llewellyn, the beleagured Welsh director of the company, who must cope with internecine jealousies, dislikes, love affairs, betrayals, brawls and drunkenness--and his own explosive, profane temper--to mount the show on time.

Roy Abramsohn plays Guy Jones, the star whose singing voice and sex appeal throw some of the actresses into a tizzy--including

Dafydd's own wife (Caitlin Shannon). Tracie Lockwood scores points as the stage manager Bridget (and barmaid at the local pub); ditto Kimberly Patterson as Fay Hubbard, the other married woman in lust with Guy.

Mixed into the story are dialogue and songs from The Beggar's Opera which the Odyssey's large cast handles with aplomb; some of them must dance as well (choreography by Georgia Simon)..

A CHORUS may not be vintage Ayckbourn, but it makes for a pleasant, entertaining summer show.

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Call 310-477-2055 or visit odysseytheatre.com