Firehouse Theatre’s ‘The Fourth Wall’ takes us on a quest for a plot
Firehouse Theatre’s production of The Fourth Wall is billed as a “contemporary comedy of manners” but might just as easily be described as the deconstruction of the old-fashioned comedy of manners into its individual elements.
Or . . . four fine Richmond actors on a desperate quest for a plot.
No, really. The actors are in search of a plot. That’s the story; though not necessarily playwright A.R. Gurney’s point.
The title is an obvious theatre reference – the fourth wall is the audience – and the rest of the show is an extended metaphor for the intentional (and unintentional) roles we play (wife, friend, lover, professor etc…).
We play out our roles constantly aware of the “fourth wall” evaluating our performance.
Peggy (Jacqueline Jones) has redecorated the living room as a stage set (everything facing the blank wall) and her husband, Roger (Michael Hawke), can’t stand it. Roger (playing the concerned husband), discomfited, fears his wife is losing her grip on reality.
Cue in Julia (Annie Zanetti), the couple’s old friend, who is appalled at the décor (role of interior designer?), and who quickly notices that everyone who enters the room is behaving as if they were in a play.
To move the plot forward and throw in a twist, Julia tries to persuade Roger to have Peggy institutionalized so that they can have an affair.
Worried about Julia’s intentions, Roger calls on Floyd (Landon Nagel) to intervene, hoping the local theater professor can help Peggy end the play so that life can return to normal.
Think Shakespeare’s, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances . . .”
Floyd serves to prevent the plot from sinking into Julia’s desired debauchery (the typical comedy of manners twist) and keep it afloat on a more serious, pointed, level.
Floyd also serves as the play’s academician, imparting lessons on elements that make up good theater: theme, plot, subplot, conflict, staging, resolution, etc.
A.R. Gurney’s script is chock full of parody and puns, rife with political commentary on the mundane (is soda pop evil) and the profound (can we free ourselves from the prison of the fourth wall).
The Fourth Wall moves from skit to skit, sprinkled with Cole Porter show tunes (the actors can all sing, thankfully) and painfully setup jokes which at some point in the 90-minute show are no longer amusing.
It seems the whole point of the show is just that . . . what IS the point? Of the show, of theatre, of life?
I overheard, “only real theatre aficionados will appreciate and get this play.”
I got it. I didn’t appreciate it.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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