Woman in Mind: Too Much Fantasy is Not Realistic
Sunday, September 24, 2006; Posted: 1:49 PM - by Joseph Melnicoff

Alan Ayckbourn's Woman in Mind is a comedy with a most intriguing premise, some truly funny lines, and a choice part for the right actress. Unfortunately, all these tasty ingredients do not merge into one appetizing dish. However, the Rover Dramawerks' production of the work contains some fine acting and production values which can almost make one forgive the flaws in the piece.

Woman in Mind's protagonist is Susan. An unhappy housewife with a dysfunctional family, she has a household accident, falls unconscious, and then fantasizes about having a perfect family. At first, she is quite content with her imaginary life. After all, an idyllic romp in fantasy must be far better than facing the unpleasantness of a harsh reality? Or is it?

Alan Ayckbourn, sometimes referred to as "the Neil Simon of Great Britain," directed the World Premiere of Woman in Mind in the United Kingdom in 1985. Julia MacKenzie played Susan in the West End production. The play received its American debut at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1988 with Stockard Channing in the lead.

Carol M. Rice, who undertook the role at the Rover Dramawerks production, did an excellent job of showing us the many sides of Susan. She had sharp timing coupled with humorous facial expressions which she used to her advantage in the comic interplay between her and the supporting characters. Miss Rice was even better in the play's more serious moments, as when she accused her husband of not raising their son properly. Her approach here was subtle, yet remarkably effective.

The other players gave accomplished performances in roles painted with broader strokes. Joe Porter did admirable work in the role of Bill, who is genuinely concerned about Susan. The biggest belly-laughs were provided by Lorna Woodford as Susan's bumbling sister-in-law.

The Director, Chris McMurtry, has the Alchemist's responsibility of turning the base metal of Woman in Mind into gold. He manages both the comedic and dramatic components of the piece well, and deserves a hefty credit for the enjoyable performances of the actors. In a 1988 interview in the New York Times, Mr. Ayckbourn states "the laughter in Woman in Mind should continue until ten seconds before the end." Such a tactic would prove to be Herculean for its Director even if the play was structured in this manner. It is to Mr. McMurtry's credit that he has turned the work into silver.

A special note of appreciation goes to Lynne Richardson, the Dialogue Coach for the proceedings. Due to Miss Richardson, all the players sound as if they have conventional English accents and are not refugees from some "Jeeves and Wooster" sketch!

If you want to see a fine production of a little-known play with an interesting premise and some appealing acting, then the Rover Dramawerks production of Woman in Mind is for you. Just make certain your expectations are realistic.

Woman in Mind will be presented by the Rover Dramawerks through October 14.For more information, please select the link at the top.

Photo Credits: Jason Rice