Two families create interesting world in
‘Woman in Mind’

By Penny Rathbun
Staff writer

Worlds collide. Social classes interact. The Church is confused.

So is the main character and the audience along with her, but that is part of the fun of it all.

Rover Dramawerks’ current production of Alan Ayckbourn’s “Woman in Mind” begins with Susan on the ground and her friend Bill trying to revive her. He is speaking in nonsense words that are almost understandable. Later in the play when Susan also speaks in gibberish the feeling is that everyone ought to be able to understand her. The cast swears these parts of the dialogue sound like words that do make sense, but actors always have a different understanding of things.

Carol Rice plays Susan with a gentle commanding presence. Even though she keeps fainting, she rules the roost, at least in the garden anyway, where the play is set – a lovely, well-tended, middle class British garden.

She is on the ground, having beaned herself in the head, by stepping on a rake. Eventually her family arrives, one of them anyway, and they all express sympathy and concern for her. Her husband Andy is particularly attentive.

Then her other family begins to show up, the family that exists on the same corporeal level that most of us inhabit.

Michael McNeil plays Gerald with a fresh understanding of the term prig. Gerald is a clergyman who would much rather write his book, a history of the parish, than live life in the present. Things in the present are entirely too painful. His tall frame shouts uncertainty and he has occasional John Cleese moments.

Their son Rick arrives, having left the religious order that forbade him to speak to his parents for the last few years. Now he is speaking and his parents may wish he would take a vow of silence again. He refuses to bring his new wife around to meet them because his mother Susan is an embarrassment. Matt Fowler gives Rick a matter-of-fact sort of quiet cruelty. The scene where he explains to Susan that his new wife would not be able to handle meeting her is almost too painful to watch.

Naturally, Susan does not get along with her sister-in-law Muriel, played by Lorna Woodford. She apparently lives with Susan’s flesh-and-blood family and is always trying to communicate with her dead husband. And she knows so much more about Susan’s problems than Susan does.

No wonder the woman has created another family that doesn’t give her any grief. Who wouldn’t prefer Andy over Gerald? Bobby Cole plays Andy with just enough charm that saves him from being an upper class twit.

Brad Stephens as Susan’s brother in her preferred family is a bit of an upper class twit, but he’s lovable and Catherine DuBord plays Lucy, Susan’s and Andy’s daughter, as if she were “to the manor born.” She can’t wait to bring her fiancé home to meet “mummy and daddy.”

Susan’s friend Bill, at times is a sort of conduit between Susan’s two worlds. Or he is so bumbling and it being an Alan Ayckbourn play, that it is tempting to assign meaning to his character. Joe Porter as the accident-prone family friend gives the audience someone to laugh at and want to strangle at the same time.

Chris McMurtry’s direction achieves a sort of balance between Susan’s two worlds. He brings out the best in his cast using a light touch.

Rover Dramawerks’production of “Woman in Mind” continues at the Cox Building Playhouse in Plano through Oct. 14.

 
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