When it came to selecting a play to close Main Street Theater’s current season, Executive Artistic Director Rebecca Udden knew she wanted a comedy. There was just one challenge: there weren’t a lot of them around.
“Newer playwrights aren’t writing good comedies that are well plotted and well crafted,” she says, noting that many of the new plays she’d been reading were heavier on drama and realism. “And because we wanted to do a comedy, it was hard to find one that hasn’t been done and done and done.”
Enter Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, a 1965 farce of mistaken identity and miscommunication. The four-character play is the story of what happens when Greg proposes to Ginny, who is off for the day to visit her parents. Greg decides to surprise her, turning up at the home he thinks belongs to her parents, where he’s welcomed by Sheila and Philip—who think Greg is someone else.
Cue missed intentions and misunderstandings.
“The show was very popular when it came out,” says Udden. “I liked the idea of revisiting that kind of comedic energy. It’s funny and delightful.”
“It’s crazy fun,” agrees Kara Greenberg, who plays Sheila, who Greg mistakes for his soon-to-be mother-in-law. “I love my character. Oh, my god. She has a vivid imagination, and her escape is romance novels. She’s fashionable. She reads the paper. She’s plugged into what’s going on.”
Of course, in reality, none of the four characters has any idea quite what’s going on, as they project their own perspectives onto the others around them. As the miscues mount, the absurdity grows.
“I think people want an escape right now,” Greenberg says. “Something that gets us away from the dealing with the threats that surround us in the world. Drama can do that, too. But comedy makes people happy.”
Udden hopes that as they’re laughing, audiences might also consider the undertones of the situation at hand.
“I want them to see that if they try to live their lives the way these characters do, it’s not going to work,” she says. “It’s not successful to deceive people to get them to do what you want.”
Mostly, though, she’s hoping they laugh.
“We have such a great cast and they know this style and they understand why it’s funny. It’s just a delightful piece of theater.”
May 4–26. Tickets from $10. Main Street Theater, 2540 Times Blvd. 713-524-6706. More info and tickets at mainstreettheater.com.