Communicating Doors
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

For Poopay (Deborah Taylor), a professional dominatrix in the year 2024, it all started as a typical night’s work. She was hired to please a rich old man staying at the Regal Hotel. But before the night was over, she felt as if, “We’ve all died and gone to a hotel in hell!”

It turns out that the old man isn’t interested in having kinky sex with Poopay. Instead, he wants her to witness his confession in which he admits responsibility for the murders of two of his wives. Even though he doesn’t commit the murders himself, he does nothing to stop his right hand man Julian (Charles Dean) from doing the job for him. But Julian gets wind of how the old man is trying to alleviate his guilt and sets his sights on a new victim, Poopay.

This is when Communicating Doors, written by Alan Ayckbourn, takes on a complexity that defies time but never relinquishes its comic spirit. In Poopay’s frantic attempt to escape Julian, she locks herself in a small utility closet. But once behind this door, she finds that she’s capable of time travel, which affords her the ability to warn the wives of their impending demise.

Of course, trying to convince someone that you’re from the future and here to warn her about her murder is hard enough, but when you’re wearing the sparse leather outfit of a dominatrix, the convincing becomes great comedy.

Indeed, complex comedies are what Ayckbourn is most noted for. The artistic director of a small theatre in Scarborough England, where the cast is constrained to no more than six characters, Ayckbourn’s dramas are often six character plays, including Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests and Marin Theatre’s current production of Communicating Doors. It’s a number that works well for the absurd comic complexities he’s so good at producing. Six is a large enough multiple to keep the comedy alive and interesting yet small enough to make it easy to follow. While Communicating Doors will keep you laughing, it also keeps you guessing to the end, and in the end you realize that all the pieces to this jigsaw puzzle fit together seamlessly – a tribute to Ayckbourn, the master puzzle maker.

For tickets or more information call Marin Theatre in beautiful Mill Valley (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

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