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No More Breaking Hearts: Ayckbourn’s Love Comedy Busts Guts

Things We Do For Love has audiences doubled over on opening night!

L-R: Geneva Carr, Sarah Manton, Matthew Greer, and Michael Mastro in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Things We Do for Love,” directed by John Tillinger, at Westport Country Playhouse, now playing through September 7

Carol Rosegg

We’ve all heard the spiel, “Love is patient, love is kind.” However, in the world of Alan Ayckbourn, love is an inconvenient whirlwind between the unlikeliest pair. Love is an obsessed neighbor cross-dressing in your old clothing. Love is cutting your ex-lovers’ wardrobe to shreds after referring to him adoringly as “Big Bear” just moments ago. In other words, love is a farcical mess – but this does not make it (or Ayckbourn’s comedy) any less delightful.     

Sir Ayckbourn (he was knighted for his services to the theatre in 1997) marks his 55th year as a playwright this summer, and his Things we Do For Love takes the Westport County Playhouse stage as the most enjoyable performance of the 2014 season. Directed by Tony award nominee John Tillinger, this “positively dishy” play runs through September 7.     

As with any door-slamming comedy, this set has three. Scenic designer James Noone (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill) provides the perfect backdrop to this looney love story. Set in a London apartment building, Barbara (Geneva Carr) is the tightly wound landlord who lives alone on the immaculate middle floor that dominates the stage space just as the character who inhabits it. Below her (literally and figuratively) lives Gilbert (Michael Mastro), the bumbling, kind-hearted Mr. Fix It whose affections for Barbra are obvious from the first scene.

Her childhood best friend Nikki (Sarah Manton) moves into the third floor flat above with her fiancée Hamish (Matthew Greer); the two gush over each other like any other husband and wife to be. For this reason, Noone only makes the top layer high enough for the audience to see the performers from the torso down – when they are standing still.

Standing still is not an option when these four come together. No stranger to Ayckbourn at Westport Country Playhouse, Carr (How the Other Half Loves, Relatively Speaking) is the perfect clown filling Barbra’s no-nonsense nude pumps. Her comedic timing knabs most of the laughs as she plays off of Manton’s sickeningly sweet character. Unlike hopeless romantic Nikki, Barbara is completely self-reliant and excruciatingly buttoned up – that is, until she (quite literally) isn’t at the end of Act I. (Leave the kids under 16 at home for this one.)   

Unafraid to voice her disgust with the male population, Barbra later begins an uproarious affair with the most unexpected of suitors. Will it be Nikki, who admits she lusted after Barbra in grade school? Will it be Hamish, who embodies everything Barbra can’t stand? Or will it be Gilbert, who just happens to have certain unmentionables (that’s putting it generously) tucked away beneath Barbra’s floorboards? The only rule in this (and every) love story is that there aren’t any.  

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love? Tell us in the comments below!

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