Upstairs, downstairs

By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  June 12, 2013

 theater_614_hous_top_2.jpg
WHEN GAVIN MET SALLY Saracino and Wilson, Jr. [Photo by Mark Turek]

House

When we enter the House of Platt, we get a clear picture of what has made Teddy Platt such a carefree, entitled philanderer. Heads of dead animals are sticking out of walls, high up alongside portraits of distinguished ancestors. Many generations of privileged patriarchs have wielded power in this baronial mansion, which date back to the 1750s.

Though Teddy’s old university mate barely passed through the other play, the visit by Gavin Ryng-Mayne (Joe Wilson, Jr.) is quite consequential here. He’s come on behalf of the prime minister to see whether Teddy would be willing to stand for Parliament. He might as well have asked whether Teddy would like droit de siegneur permission to ravage the village’s virgins (as his wife sarcastically suggests later). To a man of his ego, the hoi polloi electing him MP simply makes common sense, though his limited capacity in that regard soon proves problematic.

The playwright also has Gavin provide an object lesson: that appearances can deceive. When Teddy’s daughter Sally amps up the flirtatiousness toward Gavin, to the dismay of poor boy friend Jake, the erstwhile composed gentleman demonstrates that there is more than one way to be a cad.

Another character we don’t see much of in Garden, Teddy’s wife Trish (Anne Scurria), comes into her own here. In one quietly intense scene, she explains to Gavin how she and her sisters, being a rear admiral’s daughters, were obliged to marry for reasons other than love. In a funny bit that never gets old, she keeps pretending that Teddy doesn’t exist. (“Would anybody like a cup — oh, nobody here.”) Passive aggression has never been on more effective a war footing.

This is a very funny and droll play, relying not on jokes but on what we understand about the characters. “She’s not a very highly sexed woman,” Giles says about his wife. Teddy’s response — “Really?” — is honest surprise rather than a smirk; her affair with him had been rather enthusiastic. In another bit with an increasingly exasperated Teddy, one by one they establish that everyone speaks French except him. In a sight gag, Pearl accidentally spills water on Gavin’s lap and says: “I hope nothing shrunk,” which is especially funny because she is such an eager floozy.

You don’t have to be British to enjoy House & Garden. There’s something for you here even if you only speak French.

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