Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 21, 2010

Communicating Doors

Suffield Players, Suffield, CT
through March 6, 2010
by Shera Cohen

You don’t have to be a “Lost” fan to fully appreciate “Communicating Doors,” but it might help. Britain’s “Neil Simon,” Alan Ayckbourn penned this comic, science fiction, mystery before the cult TV show began. Perhaps “Lost’s” writers saw the play, said “great concept,” and the rest is history? Toss sex and murder into the plot mix and there’s a lot to like in “Doors.”

Set over the course of one day, yet in a 40-year time span (sounds odd, but true) are six characters whose lives intertwine in 1984, 2004, and 2040. The lead role is that of a twenty-something, which makes the literal timing all the more purposely confusing. Time moves back and forth at the drop of a hat – actually at the opening of a door.

The set is a hotel suite, beautifully crafted with three rooms, a balcony, and a surprise. The latter is a key element, as important as any of the characters. Well-executed lighting and sound design help create the mystery.

A novice (yet fully equipped) dominatrix is our heroine. Relative newcomer Becky Rodia Schoenfeld portrays Phoebe with sweetness and naivete. She is ever-present onstage, the lynchpin who keeps the steady swift pace from scene to scene. Schoenfeld is a top-notch young comedian who doesn’t mind throwing her whole body into the action. Much of her time is spent in dialogue and antics with Ruella, played by veteran actress Mary Fernandez-Sierra. The two characters’ immediate connection and rapport is honest. These total strangers care about each other and the audience cares about them.

Dale Facey’s direction nicely transitions from one decade to another and back again, yet on the same set in different time-warps. Albeit, the play is a bit long and small cuts would have been helpful. A section in Act I requires an elderly man to collapse, perhaps with a heart attack. This is done in humor, yet the audience cannot see the actor since the couch blocks the audience’s view. Had we seen it, there would have been more laughs.

The writer has strewn his play with clever dialogue, the director with physical humor, and the actors with the best English accents heard on a community theatre stage.