The Housekeeper brings together two laugh-out-loud performances.
Thursday, September 4, 2003
One of the greatest pleasures in viewing any sort of staged production is watching performers who are having fun.
Couple the palpable fun that Rollie Dick and Jill Jackson are having on stage with their skilled comedic performances in The Magic Circle Center''s production of The Housekeeper, and it''s easy to understand why the show is playing to packed houses.
The success of the play certainly isn''t due to James Prideaux''s unconvincing script. Despite some truly amusing and laugh-out loud lines, The Housekeeper is a hodgepodge blend of asides and monologues, in a contrived setting with a conclusion that is as unbelievable as it is predictable.
A celebration of dysfunctionality, The Housekeeper peers through the curtains of Manley Carstair''s (Dick) house to find a third-rate writer who has just hired bag lady Annie Dankworth (Jackson) to be his housekeeper. Both of the middle-age virgins, are seething cesspits of repressed sexuality and emotional yearning.
Manley''s pomposity needs to be burst, Annie needs to find a sense of worth, and by the end of the first act his yang is responding strongly to her yin. There''s really no place for the play to go in the second act, except to its ultimate happy ending which isn''t half bad... so long as an audience can hoist its disbelief high enough. It''s nice to believe that two middle-aged, dysfunctional freaks have a chance to find happiness.
Fortunately, director Harvey Landa keeps the pace of the production so brisk that it''s tough to spot the flaws in the play while watching it. Landa delivers an entertaining couple hours as his actors chase each other through doorways, cavort on the couch, and take advantage of every nook and cranny of Laura Cote''s earth-toned, multi-level, Tudor-esque set.
Jill Jackson turns in another tour de force as the kleptomaniac bag lady cum housekeeper, Annie. Jackson''s hyperkinetic, highly physical style of performance suits the character well. Regular theatergoers will find more than a few similarities between Jackon''s Annie and her portrayal of Trudy, another bag lady, from last fall''s production of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.
As her foil, Rollie Dick is Jackson''s equal. Always a charismatic performer, Dick has to cover somewhat more emotional range with his character, ranging from egotistical posturings, to exasperated imprecations, to lustful lungings, to demoralized self-realizations. Dick skillfully manages the changes and gets the most laughs of the evening with a very dramatic reading from one of Manley''s purple-prosed novels.
Although The Housekeeper is ultimately a forgettable play, the delights of watching Jackson and Dick perform the show make this production well worth seeing. Just don''t think about it too hard on the drive home.
The Housekeeper continues at the Magic Circle Center in Carmel Valley through Sept. 21. 659-1108.