Thursday, June 18, 2009
Norman Conquests rules again
I saw a second play of the trilogy, The Norman Conquests, Table Manners, and it was even better than the first one, if that is possible.
The same six characters, Annie, her nerdy brother Reg, his uptight wife Sarah, sarcastic, cold sister Ruth, her uncontrollable husband Norman and Annie's awkward suitor Tom are all back. The action takes place over a weekend in July 1974, and this play is set in the dining room.
There is an advantage to having already seen one play- I knew all of the characters, and that made this play even funnier and more poignant because of that familiarity. But again, you will not be lost just seeing only one of the trilogy. That is the genius of Alan Ayckbourn's writing.
The characters of Sarah, Ruth and Tom get more time in this play, and that is a good thing. I had a deeper understanding of them, Sarah particularly. The actors in the ensemble make you believe they are this dysfunctional family.
The dinner scene was amazing; I have never heard an audience laugh that hard or long at any other play I have seen. Even the actors seemed a little giddy. I think everyone at that show could relate to the family dinner that starts with good intentions, only to devolve into insanity, dredging up the muck as only a family can do.
This play showed the loneliness and sadness of these people, who just want to make a human connection, and be loved. Ayckbourn and the actors do this with a humor and poignancy that is remarkable. If you can only see one Broadway show, you owe it to yourself to make it one of the Norman Conquest trilogy, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play.
And Norman, to quote Bill Murray from Stripes "You are a madman- I wanna party with you!"