Friday, September 24, 2010
Alphabetical Order **
Michael Frayn's versatility amazes me. Anyone who could write both Noises Off and Copenhagen is a playwright to be reckoned with. Besides being a playwright, Frayn is a successful translator (of Chekhov's plays) and a gifted novelist. His Headlong, a send-up of art collectors, is one of the funniest novels I have ever read. I was therefore quite keen to see Keen Company's revival of his 1977 play Alphabetical Order. This time out, his subject is the foibles of seven employees of a failing provincial newspaper. The set, a monumentally cluttered newspaper library, effectively mirrors the characters' chaotic lives. Unfortunately, I didn't find the characters all that interesting: some were one-dimensional and others were fuzzily motivated. The play builds to frenetic farce in each of its two acts, but doesn't come near the inspired madness of Noises Off. There is an undercurrent of sadness about aging and obsolescence that contrasts with the workplace highjinks. The acting was a bit broad for my taste. Some of the British references do not travel well. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see an example of Frayn's early work.