In the high and handsome neo-classical great room of a Yorkshire country house, things go from bad to worse for philandering industrialist Teddy Platt, who destroys his opportunity to run for the seat in Parliament long held by his dad and granddad. Meanwhile, out in the garden, his teenage daughter and her boyfriend ... but that's another play, even though it takes place at exactly the same time and with the same cast of characters.
This lively theatrical jigsaw puzzle is the conceit of playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn. My colleague, Gregg Shapiro, writes elsewhere of Garden, while I attest to the indoor portion, in which Ayckbourn does what he does best: he confuses and destroys the befuddled lives of ridiculous people just like us; people driven onward—some blithely and some darkly—by the human survival imperative, even if it means making fools of themselves ( ourselves ) , which it usually does. Few authors today capture the true profundity of the human comedy better than Ayckbourn, who is very well served in this American premiere.
The key to Ayckbourn's writing is patience. Unlike Neil Simon, to whom he often is compared, Ayckbourn rarely writes a joke or a one-line gag. Instead, he carefully establishes complex character and situation exposition, sometimes with hardly a giggle, in order for a comedic mega-payoff in the back half. His graceful ability to sustain the set-up is brilliant. All his chickens come to roost in Home, which has its share of sad fools as well as young ones and glad ones.
Goodman artistic director Robert Falls long ago earned his stripes as a master stage craftsman. His focused abilities are at full strength here from Linda Buchanan's handsome scenic design ( lit by James F. Ingalls ) and Mara Blumenfeld's precise costumes, to the very logistics of putting this two-stage show together. Best of all, he has honed a large and harmonious cast of Chicago players who do the local talent pool proud.
Joel Hatch, the perfect comedian, as Teddy never lets on he knows how funny he is. B. J. Jones is oily and icily perfect as an Ian Fleming-inspired political operative. Susan Hart as Teddy's put-upon wife ( who ends the play with a door slam straight out of Ibsen's A Doll's House ) , and Donald Brearly as the best friend Teddy cuckolds provide the play's emotional center. Straight from glorious reviews in Booth, Brearly is having a championship season. Liesel Matthews and Joe Sikora are the young fools, and both are cute enough to eat. Kiss each other, stupid!
Quibble: the British accents are good, but they're not Yorkshire by a country mile. More like London, although England remains a nation of strong regional dialects.