Absurd Person Singular, Will Act for Food, at WNEP Theater. This Alan Ayckbourn social satire has so much going for it–verbal wit, physical comedy, and the silliest suicide attempt ever–that it’s practically guaranteed to provide a gut-busting evening. Will Act for Food’s production, directed by Jason Jude Hill, realizes much of the play’s inherent hilarity but fails to reach its full promise. For one thing there are technical shortcomings. The actors are sometimes forced to ignore one another on this small stage, and Deanna Zibello’s set (which takes minimalist chic too far in the final act) is of no help. Daniel Shea’s sound design also disappoints: an angry dog in the second act is too distant to provide the comedy Ayckbourn intends.
The humor does build as the actors ratchet up their characterizations. Though each couple occupies a distinct place on the class spectrum at first, we see how quickly and inexplicably social status can change. Jenny Vilim and Shea are the most naturally funny as a middle-class couple enduring marital problems and career crises, but Craig Degel and Corri Feuerstein also earn laughs as an upper-class duo whose fortunes fall. Even Matt Smulski and Jessica Browne-White make a contribution as offstage voices. But Valerie Shull and Ryan Lawrence’s social climbers play only for broad laughs, and their characters are oblivious to their new power, undermining the very point that makes smart satire out of the play’s silliness.