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Communicating Doors

by Christopher Verleger
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Oct 6, 2011
Hakeem as Poopay in "Communicating Doors"
Hakeem as Poopay in "Communicating Doors"  (Source:Richard W. Dionne, Jr.)

Murder, time travel, and a dominatrix are just a sample of the items on display in 2nd Story Theatre's remarkably entertaining production of "Communicating Doors," Alan Ayckbourn's spellbinding comedy about events that transpire in the same hotel room during three different time periods.

Poopay (Lara Hakeem), a leather-clad lady of the evening who specializes in taking control of her clients, arrives at a lavish suite in a high-rise hotel. The not-so-gentle man who greets her at the door, Julian (Terrence Shea), leaves her alone with Reece (Wayne Kneeland), his lifelong friend and business partner.

Death is knocking on the frail-looking Reece's door, who isn't interested in Poopay's services. Instead, he asks her to deliver a written confession, accepting responsibility for the murder of his two former wives. His plan is foiled when Julian, the actual killer, gets wind of the guilt-ridden Reece's intentions and informs Poopay, now a loose end, that she won't be leaving the suite alive.

Poopay manages to break away from Julian's restraint and escapes behind a door that transports her to the same hotel room, 20 years earlier, on the night when Reece's second wife, Ruella (Sharon Carpentier), is scheduled to die. Not only does Poopay convince Ruella that she's from the future, but the two ladies join forces to save each other, as well as first wife, Jessica (Laura Sorensen) -- who died 20 years before Ruella -- from Julian.

While the fate of these three women is cause for concern and the mounting tension on stage, the author’s trademark wit and bawdy undertone is on par with Blake Edwards or Mel Brooks, and the result has its share of howlingly funny moments.

Ayckbourn's farce is reminiscent of Hitchcock, complete with suspense, intrigue and potentially grisly circumstances. While the fate of these three women is cause for concern and the mounting tension on stage, the author's trademark wit and bawdy undertone is on par with Blake Edwards or Mel Brooks, and the result has its share of howlingly funny moments.

Artistic Director Ed Shea directs the cast with precision on Trevor Elliot's pristine set that is every bit as plush as it is ominous. Hakeem is delightful as the feisty dominatrix who evolves into the frightened and seemingly innocent -- albeit determined -- young woman named Phoebe.

Carpentier's tour-de-force performance as Ruella is a striking combination of nurturing mother, jilted wife and strong-willed woman. Sorensen completes this trio of cagey ladies with her sassy portrayal of Jessica.

Kneeland's charm shines as the remorseful Reece and Shea is villainously playful as his henchman, Julian. The only truly innocent bystander who provides additional comic relief to this absurd series of events is Harold, the hotel's concierge, played earnestly and purposefully by Joe Ouellette.

The prolific playwright was inspired to write this play supposedly from spending too much time in hotel rooms. Like most Ayckbourn plays, "Communicating Doors" is, first and foremost, mindless fun, but after you scratch the surface, there's a valuable lesson to be learned about regret, shame, and forgiveness.

"Communicating Doors" runs through October 23 at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market Street, Warren, RI. For more information, visit 2nd Story Theatre’s website.

Chris Verleger is an avid reader, aspiring novelist and self-professed theater geek from Providence. Email cwverleger1971@yahoo.com.


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