The Norman Conquests
The Norman Conquests – Theater Review
A middle class English weekend gets complicated — in triplicate — by a randy Brit named Norman in the new Broadway production of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests, opening at Circle in the Square April 23 after previews from April 7. Comprised of a trio of comedies playing in repertory, the unique limited run is the Broadway debut of the acclaimed 2008 production seen at The Old Vic in London. (The plays were first seen on Broadway in the 1975-76 season.)
Pick of the Week!
“The Norman Conquests” is three separate plays that can actually be seen either together, separately, individually, or out of order. So, it’s a little unclear exactly how to review this, but I’ll give it a whack. It’s a great cast. They’re all from the Old Vic. So, they’ve had a lot of time practicing. The story is of a guy, Norman, who is kind of a ne’er-do-well, and married to Ruth, who is attractive, and very tolerant of his messing around. Annie is the old maid sister taking care of her mother, and Sarah is the kind of fussy sister that I suppose every family has to have. Then, there are assorted men. Tom is the local vet, who somehow can’t quite get off his butt to declare his intentions to Annie, and Reg is Sarah’s long-suffering husband. It starts at one, “Table Manners” is set in the house. What we discover is that Annie is going away with her sister’s husband for a long weekend. Whoops. The first act is hilarious. It’s really — or the first play, “Table Manners”, is in two acts and four scenes and is just hilarious. It’s really fun. These people are terrific at timing, and all sorts of just hilarious kind of play with words. The second play, “Living Together”, takes place at the dining room table. I think it’s certainly the weakest of the three, but it’s the one that sort of has to knit everything together. The third and final play, “Round and Round the Garden”, takes place exclusively in the garden, and again intersects with both “Table Manners” and “Living Together”, because people are coming on and off stage, into the living room, into the kitchen, into the garden. It is the one that is probably the most dramatic, and the most fully realized, and where we decide for ourselves whether Norman is adorable or a monster. These are really terrific theatre experiences, and if you can, do what I did, which is to do the marathon of al three in one day, than you will have a ball. If you can’t do it that way, what I would probably do, is to choose “Table Manners” and “Round and Round the Garden”. If you only choose one, I would probably suggest, if you’re looking for a real theatre experience, do “Round and Round the Garden”. If you’re looking for hilarity, do “Table Manners”. Altogether, “Table Manners” gets four stars, “Living Together”, three, and “Round and Round the Garden”, five.