By Alan Ayckbourn Hebrew version by Oren Neeman Directed by Muli Shulman Beersheba Theater, September 5
Question: How, asked Muli Shulman and Oded Neeman, do you update a 1960s comedy, a British comedy at that (that already has its own set of rules), and above all a British comedy by a master of the genre, to be accessible to an Israeli audience in 2017?
Answer: You let the master do the talking and tweak here and there, like using smartphones instead of land lines. Q: Does it work? A: You bet – or nearly, nearly. First we have Neta Haker’s set – the grubby bed-sit where we first meet the co-habiting Greg (Oren Cohen) and Ginny (Inbar Dannon), that is whisked off to reveal the spacious patio backed by the sumptuous country home of Sheila (Adva Edni) and Philip (Amir Kriaf) where most of the action takes place. This is niftily complemented by Oren Dar’s costumes, Amir Castro’s lighting and Elad Adar’s witty music.
Relatively Speaking has more twists and turns that a maze, but it’s still a classic farce, about everything: identity, comprehension, emotions, addresses... and that’s where the trouble starts. You see, Ginny says she’s going to see her parents, and also tell them the good news that Greg has proposed, though she insists he’ll meet them at another time.
But Greg, having filched what he thinks is the parents’ address, decides to surprise her and them with his presence. Sheila and Philip are surprised all right, and we’re off.
British comedy works on a hair-trigger of nuance and timing. If you’re off by so much as a nanosecond the comedy falls flat. Cohen and Dannon are eager, sweet, lovable, believable – but they have yet to master nuance and timing. Fortunately Relatively Speaking also has Edni and Kriaf, who have the genre down pat, who play with and off each other, whose interaction with the youngsters lifts their performances without a trace of effort, and whose physical comedic shenanigans, especially those of Kriaf, provoke a near hysterical response from a guffawing audience.
As the famous Disney tune has it “I love to laugh” – who doesn’t in our fraught times? Beersheba’s production lets us.
THE CAST of ‘Relatively Speaking.’