One actor transforms himself almost before our eyes from hen- and chicken-pecked husband Nyukhin rabbiting on about the miseries of his home life under the guise of a lecture on the evils of tobacco to a Firs-like manservant to an actor whose final benefit performance has closed the curtains on much more than a career to a landowner desperate to marry off a daughter who’s more than just a chip from the paternal block.
Another is in turns an army officer whose relationship with the local matchmaker is (shall we say) a trifle ambiguous?, a landowner in urgent need of the money owed him by a deceased creditor, a sad little theatre prompter and the neighbour whose wooing is bedevilled by disputes over the ownership of a meadow and the merits (or otherwise) of two dogs.
The matchmaker, the not-so gay widow getting her own back and the be-spectacled practical girl who’s not quite the demure, self-effacing fiancée her hypochondriac suitor has envisaged are equally enjoyable portraits which teeter on the verge of caricature but retain the ssence of humanity to make thenm three- rather than two-dimensional.
It is Vivienne Rowdon who has most of the audience on her side, but Richard Latham runs her a close second in the older roles, breasting the comedy tape just inches ahead of John O’Connor. The latter contrasts his three men in search of something – or someone – with the prompter who has heard it all (or most of it) before. [Jonathan Kemp’s direction keeps the verbal and physical jokes spinning within the deceptively simple fit-up settings which are a feature of the company’s work.