Review by Erica Minton of “Relatively Speaking”: Diogenes Theatre Company
Relatively Speaking, a frothy comedy of errors by Alan Ayckbourn, opened this week at Diogenes Theatre Company.
The play’s foursome is well cast. Married couple Philip and Sheila are hysterical in the hands of Robert Pavlovich and Abby Rowold. Rowold, in particular, clearly understands the nuance of every joke her tight-lipped and too-polite character makes; though her character is the most timid of the bunch, her timing and wry wit are pivotal to the success of the show. Bailie Breaux’s Ginny is a coquettish bird who proves to have tricks up her own sleeves. Patrick Phillips is a bit of a weak link for me as Ginny’s boyfriend, Greg. Phillips’ accent is distractingly mismatched, especially against Breaux’s believable lilt, and his comedic gestures seem overly practiced and unnatural. That said, the character of Greg calls for wide-eyed naivete, and in his more vulnerable moments, Phillips pulls it off.
The play itself, written in 1965, holds up very well 50 years later. Though the first act gets off to a slow start as the audience is handed the necessary exposition, Relatively Speaking builds scene by scene into a ludicrous comedy. Audiences will be familiar with the play’s framework, a textbook farce of mistaken identities: oblivious Greg is eager to meet his sweetheart’s parents to secure their blessing to marry her. Against girlfriend Ginny’s wishes, Greg sneaks off to an address that Ginny claims to be her parents’, and without giving too much away, Ginny is not the only party snagged in a web of their own lies. Though it’s now a familiar format, the show also has dark undertones and twists that keep the show fresh and funny.
Relatively Speaking, directed by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company‘s Brian Isaac Phillips, runs through Nov 22.