Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Wonderful Day


Written and Directed by Alan Ayckbourn. At 59E59. (CLOSED)

Alan Ayckbourn directs his own dark farce in this Brits off Broadway Production, and the reaction is overwhelmingly positive, with a couple of quibbles. Both Elisabeth Vincentelli and Ben Brantley find the goings-on a bit too familiar and a bit too formulaic, having seen plenty of Ayckbourn's farces over the years (perhaps this formula helps explain the scribe's terrifying prolificness--he's written 73 plays!). Terry Teachout--on record as a huge fan of Ayckbourn as a writer and a director--can't sing the praises of the show highly enough. Everyone gets a big kick out of the premise--a middle-class sex farce watched over by a nearly silent-year-old played convincingly by 28-year-old Ayesha Antoine. (For a bonus Q+A wiht Sir Alan, point your browsers to this interview conducted by David Cote)

Wall St. Journal A+
(Terry Teachout) Not only is My Wonderful Day one of the wittiest and most pristinely crafted of Mr. Ayckbourn's dark farces, but the Brits Off Broadway festival has wisely imported his own production, which was first seen in October at Mr. Ayckbourn's home base, Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre. Like the play, it's a gem, a textbook example of how to stage a comedy effectively, and anyone fortunate enough to see it will wonder why Mr. Ayckbourn's parallel career as a director is largely unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

TheaterMania A+
(David Finkle) Alan Ayckbourn's new bittersweet comedy My Wonderful Day, now at 59E59 Theaters as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival, is among his best and most touching works -- which really says something considering it is his 73rd play...Ayckbourn wants to show the world of adults as seen through a child's innocent eyes. He's not the first to take the approach, but he's one of the funniest. Character-based laughs keep coming even as anxiety accumulates about the burdens children are asked to bear by the supposedly mature. For instance, Winnie knows that eager Kevin and willing Tiffany have gone off alone to the bedroom, but how should she respond when Paula, returning unexpectedly, asks about her husband's whereabouts?

NYTimes A-
(Ben Brantley) All of this is per usual for Mr. Ayckbourn, whose comedies have always held more than a trace of melancholy. I can’t say I cared very much about the fates of these selfish adults, though they are portrayed with enjoyable wit and style. What makes My Wonderful Day so moving is your awareness of the grim spectacle of the life to come that they present to Winnie. She already knows that promises are inevitably broken and that stability of any kind is an illusion. No wonder Winnie worries that her mother could die any minute, though of course Laverne, as an Ayckbourn adult, fails to grasp the depths of her child’s fear.

Associated Press B+
(Jennifer Farrar) Some adults still believe that children should be seen and not heard. But what if that quiet child is writing down every foolish thing the adults are saying and doing? That's the delightful premise of Alan Ayckbourn's latest comedy, My Wonderful Day, making its New York debut as part of BritsOffBroadway 2009 at 59E59 Theaters. Ayckbourn wrote and directs this witty, thoughtful farce, which includes the original British cast from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Yorkshire, England.

NYPost B
(Elisabeth Vincentelli) Ayckbourn's written more than 70 plays' worth of this stuff, and he knows what he's doing. But this one also feels by-the-numbers...just as we seem to be cruising toward an uneventful finish to an uneventful play, Ayckbourn introduces a new character in the final stretch. When brisk, acerbic Paula (Alexandra Mathie) enters, it's as if someone had opened a window and let a bracing wind blow in. Paula helps end the show in a delicious high note -- but also makes you wish she'd come in much, much earlier.

TM A+ 14; WSJ A+ 14; NYT A- 12; AP B+ 11; NYP B 10. TOTAL: 61/5 = 12.2 (A-)

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