Playwright Alan Ayckbourn never seems to run out of clever dramatic devices. In “Intimate Exchanges,” opening tonight at the Interplayers Ensemble, he seems to have outdone himself.
This 1982 play actually was written in eight versions with 16 endings; those versions diverge at several decision points. For instance, at the very beginning, the character can either take a cigarette or not. If she takes it, the play goes one direction; if she doesn’t, the play goes a different direction. The whole thing is published in two large volumes.
Which means that director Joan Welch’s first job was to choose a version. It is up to each individual theater to stitch together the version it likes from the options available. A plot map comes with the script to help in this process.
Welch chose a taking-the-cigarette version with four characters, played by two actors. In this production, Michael Weaver will play the two male roles, while Christina Lang plays the two female roles. Both are Interplayers veterans and audience favorites.
Welch said she could have tried to do a different version of the play every night, but the logistics were overwhelming.
“It would have taken at least three weeks longer to rehearse,” she said.
Besides, the play is not really about these gimmicks. It’s about the characters’ struggle to lead (or appear to lead) respectable lives.
Ayckbourn is well-known for imaginative devices. In one play, he might have two dinner parties going on at the same table. In another, he might have a four-story mansion compressed into one floor.
Ayckbourn’s plays have one other characteristic; they treat the British middle classes with savage and cynical humor. This play promises to follow in the same vein.
Ayckbourn has long been an Interplayers tradition. Interplayers staged Ayckbourn’s “How the Other Half Loves” in 1991; “Season’s Greetings” in 1992; “Taking Steps” in 1993; and “Absurd Person Singular” in 1994.
Interplayers has an Ayckbourn obsession for good reason. First, his plays are wildly funny and inventive. Second, his plays are wildly popular, not just in London and New York, but also in Spokane. Every one of Interplayers’ previous Ayckbourn productions has been a hit and a couple have qualified as smash hits.
When you’ve got a good thing going, you stick with it.
Ayckbourn runs a small theater in Scarborough, England, and it is there that he polishes his plays for major productions in the West End and New York.
“Intimate Exchanges” opens tonight and continues Tuesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 27 at the Interplayers Ensemble, 174 S. Howard. Curtain times are 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Jan. 10 and 13.
The Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d’Alene has been forced to postpone its production of “Heidi” because of last month’s fire at the theater. The show was originally scheduled to open tonight.
The show will be rescheduled, probably in a few months, as part of a grand reopening of the theater. Work is under way on cleaning and restoring the building.
Meanwhile, next month’s “The Nerd” will take place as scheduled in a different venue, to be announced.