Pittsfield, Mass. – The short review for the comedy “Taking Steps,” playing at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass through August 5, is: Go see it – it’s funny.
If you need to know why, it’s because the acting is fantastic, Sam Buntrock’s direction is inventive and Alan Ayckbourn’s writing is smart, funny and the play is brilliantly constructed.
In today’s world any play that makes you smile is called a comedy. “Taking Steps” makes you laugh – hard and often. It’s filled with visual comedy that is broad and silly, but short of slapstick. The humor comes not only from the visual and physical comedy - the language is a joy.
Every convoluted event happens for a reason and though none of the characters can be considered bright, neither do they operate from stupidity. Everyone wants something they can’t have – and often they don’t even know what they want.
It’s classic farce in which the audience is always a step ahead of the characters. We know what they don’t know, and we do know nothing is going to work out well for them.
The characters involve a beautiful woman who feels she has to divorce her husband of three and a half months. The husband is a wealthy manufacturer who is preparing to buy a rundown Victorian home for the status he feels the ownership will give him. The woman’s brother is so boring he puts people to sleep when he talks to them. His fiancé has once left him at the altar and is likely to do it again. Add a lawyer who can hardly utter a coherent sentence. There is also a dull-witted and sleazy contractor who owns the house and is desperate to sell it. Put them together, mix well and you have a combustible group of people.
What ignites the fireworks are a couple of suicide notes that aren’t suicide notes, a female ghost that isn’t a ghost crawling into the wrong man’s bed, and an entire domino-effect of misunderstandings.
“Taking Steps” is also incredibly theatrical. The work takes place in a three story Victorian house, but the action is played on one level. The actors establish boundaries and inhabit the space convincingly. Because they are living in separate areas they can even walk past each other as if invisible. This is more than a device. The situation adds a lot of humor to the proceedings.
It might sound complicated and confusing – but it’s not. Thanks to the performers and the direction, everyone navigates Jason Sherwood’s innovative design with clarity and humor. David Werner’s excellent lighting is another reason the show works so well in establishing place.
I could go on heaping praise on each individual performance, the painstaking detailed direction, the marvelous movement that is clever and exceptionally well-executed, perfect costumes and even the ideal props. But maybe simple is better - as I said “Taking Steps” is a lot of fun. Go see it. It’s funny.”
“Taking Steps” continues at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. through August 5. For schedule and ticket information call 413-236-8888 or go to barringtonstageco.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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