Updated 04/24/2009 11:02 AM
NY1 Theater Review: "The Norman Conquests"
After an acclaimed run in London, the Old Vic Theatre Company's production of the comic trilogy "The Norman Conquests" has arrived on Broadway. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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Seldom has a comedy crossed our shores that produced the kind of gut splitting laughter heard in Alan Ayckbourn's masterful "The Norman Conquests." I'd have to go back to the original "Noises Off" on Broadway to recall such a comically consummate production. It's three separate plays that can stand alone or be seen back to back. But I recommend seeing all three because it's the only way to appreciate the ingeniousness of the thing and it's three times the fun.
The plays take place during roughly the same period over a three day weekend in a British country home. Each play is set in a different part of the house. "Table Manners" is in the dining room; "Living Together" in the sitting room and "Round and Round the Garden". There's no particular order in which to see them but part of the thrill of seeing all three is discovering how cleverly every action and character carries over from one play to the next.
It revolves around three very odd couples who spend their time wooing, cursing and boring each other over a series of disappointed expectations and misunderstandings. It will alternately bring to mind the silliness of a soap opera and the classic convolutions of a Chekhov drama. Ayckbourn gets human foibles better than almost anyone and it's the highest compliment to say that his humor is entirely organic. And with the phenomenal British cast intact from the celebrated London production, we get an added bonus.
It's as if they were born to the roles. Just watch how these incredible actors plumb every juicy nuance embedded in their characters. Stephen Mangan's manic rogue womanizer Norman; his wife, the cynically hardened Ruth played by Amelia Bullmore; her sister, the dowdy, unfulfilled Annie and hen-pecked brother Reg played by Jessica Hynes and Paul Ritter respectively; Reg's nagging, prudish wife Sarah played by Amanda Root; and their neighbor, the vacuous, vacant-eyed vet Tom in the person of Ben Miles.
Director Matthew Warchus has cornered the Broadway market on comedies with last year's Tony-winning "Boeing Boeing" and this season's "God of Carnage." His in-the-round production adds yet another notch to a stellar career. In this triumphant "Norman Conquests", everyone wins.