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Stage Right will present the dry wit of 'Absurd Person Singular'

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Geoffrey Jackson, played by Fred Steinberg of Regent Square, threatens his poor wife, Eva, played by Jocelyn Hillen of Bloomfield, during a rehearsal of Act 2 of 'Absurd Person Singular,' presented by Stage Right of Fox Chapel starting Oct. 18, 2012, at Boyd Community Center in O'Hara. Jan Pakler | For the Valley News Dispatch
Director Bill Ivins of Indiana Township asks for more articulation and volume from his actors during rehearsal of the Stage Right of Fox Chapel's 'Absurd Person Singular,' which will be presented at the Boyd Community Center in O'Hara starting on Oct. 18, 2012 Jan Pakler | For the Valley News Dispatch
The Herald
The cast from Stage Right of Fox Chapel rehearses a complicated situation in Act 2 of 'Absurd Person Singular,' opening on Oct. 18, 2012, at the Boyd Community Center in O'Hara. Jan Pakler | For The Herald
Marion, played by Michele Bress of Fox Chapel, hen-pecks her husband Ronald, played by Bill Boag, during rehearsal of a kitchen scene from Stage Right of Fox Chapel's 'Absurd Person Singular,' which will be presented starting Oct. 18, 2012, at Boyd Community Center, O'Hara. Jan Pakler | For the Valley News Dispatch
Sidney, played by Jerry Wienand of Marshall, and Jane Hopcroft, played by Deb Wein of O'Hara, get cleaned up for company during a rehearsal of Stage Right of Fox Chapel's 'Absurd Person Singular,' which will be presented starting Oct. 18, 2012 at Boyd Community Center, O'Hara. Jan Pakler | For the Valley News Dispatch

Comedy and tragedy coexist in “Absurd Person Singular,” frequently rubbing shoulders and occasionally poking each other in the eye, Bill Ivins says.

The Indiana Township resident is director of the season-opener for Stage Right of Fox Chapel, which is presenting the Alan Ayckbourn comedy Thursday through Saturday and Oct. 25-27 at Boyd Community Center, O'Hara.

In “Absurd Person Singular,” he showcases three couples at three Christmas parties in the past, present and future.

“The show is different for us, as it is not filled with the usual jokes and gags typical of comedies we present,” Ivins says. “Rather, the laughs come in the juxtaposition of the six characters, each one seemingly living in their own little world.”

What makes this show unique, the director says, is that the audience never sees the actual party. “Instead, the playwright reveals what happens in the kitchen during the party, which as we all know, is where all the drama occurs,” Ivins says.

It is staged in three acts with two intermissions, documenting the changing fortunes of three married couples.

The play is appropriate for all audiences, Ivins says, but will be of particular interest to those who enjoy the dry wit of British comedy.

“While it is tempting to play for laughs, the humor of this script is drawn from the believability of each character, and how they interact with each other,” he says. “As with any show, it helps to cast people who can be inventive while remaining true to the script but, most of all, have a good time in the process.”

This cast does have a good time, the actors say.

“I love to do comedies and farce, so I was naturally drawn to this show. It has been a wonderful experience,” says Michele Bress of Fox Chapel in her Stage Right debut as the class-conscious Marion Brewster-Wright, the banker's wife who drinks too much, is obsessed with her fading beauty, is depressed and unhappily married.

Her husband is the stuffy and, somewhat, clueless Ronald, played by Bill Boag of O'Hara.

“It's great fun,” says Deborah Wein of O'Hara, who portrays Jane, married to Sidney, played by Jerry Wienand of Marshall Township. They previously played husband and wife in Stage Right's staging of “Don't Drink The Water.” Jane is a timid soul, obsessed with cleaning and having things orderly, and is generally subservient to Sidney. She dislikes parties, drinking, etc., and would much rather be “on the floor, in that oven” than at a party talking.

“I like that the couples switch their social and financial positions from the beginning to the end of the play and that shifts the power. That is demonstrated at the end of the show with Sidney's bizarre behavior in the final scene,” Wein says.

Wienand describes Sidney as a social climber “who doesn't mind walking over someone to get ahead. Alan Ayckbourn is always funny and the play is entertaining,” he says. “It moves at a quick pace and it's got some unusual twists.”

“Absurd Person Singular” is a play that has its absurd moments, as its title suggests, says Jocelyn Hillen of Bloomfield. “It's got a really cool contrast of absurd comedy with some dark themes,' she says. “It also has some great moments that maybe weren't that funny on paper, but are hilarious when brought to life by the cast. We have some actors with impeccable comic timing.”

She has the role of Eva, the chronically depressed wife of the womanizing architect Geoffrey Jackson (Fred Steinberg of Regent Square). “She's actually a lot of fun,” Hillen says. “In the context of the play, her really dark, morbid moments are funny.”

Coming to terms with and learning to appreciate his quite unlikable character of Geoffrey has been essential for him to portray the role credibly, Jackson says. “That has been a stretch at times,” he says. “I enjoy playing a complex and not very sympathetic man whom life works over in a pretty harsh way, and ends with what some would call ‘deserved comeuppance.' ”

He is grateful that Ivins give his cast room to develop their characters while still presenting a solid vision of the piece.

“There is a special camaraderie among those of us who have done many shows at Stage Right,” he says. “Our audience is very loyal, and knows they can rely on having an evening of good theater at a bargain price.”

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or rrutkoski@tribweb.com.

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