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Auburn's cast from the past presents Ayckbourn comedy
It's unmistakably British, uproarious and different, which is perfectly fine with Paul Fouhy and his seasoned cast from the past.
The Fouhy-directed Summer Alumni Theater Company is at it again, this time with a twist. The six-member lineup presents Alan Ayckbourn's "Round and Round the Garden" – part of the British playwright's explosively hilarious trilogy, "The Norman Conquests."
The premiere is Aug. 9, one of six evening performances at the Auburn Mountainview Theater.
SATC is comprised of actors, actresses and artists who graduated from Auburn-area high schools. The diverse cast, under Fouhy, assembles each summer to perform a benefit show. This marks SATC's fifth production.
Proceeds from ticket sales support the school's drama students scholarship fund.
Fouhy has always enjoyed Ayckbourn's work, and wanted to put on a small, intimate comedy for the audience. This play supports a three-quarter thrust stage, allowing the audience a front-row view of the garden.
Fouhy, Auburn Mountainview High School's arts, literature and drama instructor, got involved in Ayckbourn's plays in the early '80s when he was pursuing his master's degree at Boston University.
Later, as he worked at Auburn High, Fouhy frequently took a contingent of students to London for two weeks, which often included taking in an Ayckbourn play.
"I've always loved his plays," Fouhy said. "They are very clever, but they also deal with relationships, time sequences and all kinds of other deeper stuff.
"It's very British ... amusing, a different style of humor," Fouhy added. "It's more character-motivated humor, more so than American situational comedy."
In essence, "Round and Round the Garden" explores couples and how those characters interact.
As in the other Ayckbourn's two shows, "Table Manners" and "Living Together," the audience watches in horror and hysterics as Norman, an assistant librarian, tosses one emotional bomb after another into his wife's family.
Norman is wooing his wife's sister, Annie, and her brother's wife, Sarah, simultaneously. He simply doesn't understand why anyone should have a problem with people being happy, and he firmly believes his happiness should be the first order of business.
"Garden" shows what is happening outside the family's country house, even as the other plays take place in the home's living and dining rooms.
As Fouhy describes, Ayckbourn's plays are well timed, well constructed, with intricate plots, splendid rising action and a few surprises. It is a challenging and delightful work for a director.
Ayckbourn is best known for finding humor and true emotion in the unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and, at times, desperation of his recognizable middle-class British characters. He applies his wit and charmed affection to a cast of disastrously imperfect characters who expose the tensions and desires that simmer beneath the surface.
Such is a challenge for Brooks Farr, a seasoned actor who plays the role of Tom, Annie's next-door-neighbor.
"He's someone detached, but he's there," Farr said. "It's just the words don't come to him as conveniently as he wants them to."
The comedy brings Justin Hopkins back to the stage. Hopkins, a 1996 Auburn High graduate, was part of "glorified scenery" in a production with the Seattle Opera a couple of years ago. But the appearance got his juices flowing for more work on the stage.
"I really like this summer (production) that Paul does because it's a nice way to reconnect with the people you went to high school with," said Hopkins, a producer for KOMO-4 News. "It's also a real cool way to give something back to the kids who are in school now."
Jacklyn Kellogg, an Auburn High and PLU graduate and Kent elementary school teacher, returns to the cast as Ruth, Norman's wife. Auburn Mountainview grads Jeanette Helms (Sarah) and Brandon Kinney (Ruth's brother, Reg) also return. Shannon McMahan, an Auburn Mountainview grad, plays Annie.
• Production: "Round and Round the Garden", a British comedy, presented by the Summer Alumni Theater Company.
• Performances: 7:30 p.m., Aug. 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18.
• Stage: Auburn Mountainview Theater, 28900 124th Ave. SE
• Cast: Brooks Farr (Tom); Jacklyn Kellogg (Ruth); Justin Hopkins (Norman); Shannon McMahan (Annie); Brandon Kinney (Reg); Jeanette Helms (Sarah)
• Support: Rachel Forbes, stage manager; Leilani Saper, assistant director
• Admission: $8 per ticket. Proceeds benefit the high school drama students scholarship fund.