Touching drama, with hints of farce

Hebden Bridge Little Theatre present California Suite, June 2012 - L-R Vaughan Leslie, Anne Brown
Hebden Bridge Little Theatre present California Suite, June 2012 - L-R Vaughan Leslie, Anne Brown

ANYONE who has booked into a hotel and found themselves wondering about the previous occupants of the room will enjoy the amusing premise at the heart of Neil Simon’s bittersweet comedy ‘California Suite’.

Sometimes the bitter threatens to overwhelm the sweet as five couples booking in at various times bicker, argue noisily and fume in silence in rooms 203 and 204 of a Beverley Hills Hotel.

At times touching dramas are played out, at others the action descends into broad farce - but even when it’s played for laughs, hints of disillusion, broken promises and communication breakdowns are never far below the surface.

Neil Simon is very good on the way in which small differences can escalate into big rows and petty bickering can become a habit that is hard to shake.

He is also a hard task-master, expecting spot-on comic timing from his cast and the ability to switch mood in a second.

On the whole Hebden Bridge Little Theatre’s cast of ten gives accompanied performances in the four separate playlets. Some of the scenarios are more miss than hit but the comic moments are finely handled while Ann Brown, Anita Alzamora and Jenny Gore give subtle and perceptive performances as women trying to come to terms with the disappointment of finding out that the men in their lives are not all they seem.

Richard Brook as the married man who wakes up to find a prostitute in his bed and Terry Baynham as the holidaying husband who brings hostile baggage from the tennis court into the hotel suite got plenty of laughs from an appreciative first night audience. Director Hannah Stow handles the changes in mood confidently and the American accents don’t waver.

l ‘California Suite’ is at Hebden Bridge Little Theatre until Saturday, June 23, at 7.30pm.