A Play About “Nothing” From Another Time
By Skip Sheffield
Sir Noel Coward anticipated Jerry Seinfeld by 70 years or more. His 1925 comedy “Hay Fever” is a play about “nothing.”
“Hay Fever” opens the Summer Repertory at FAU and continues through June 26 in the Studio One Theater.
Director Jean-Louis Baldet admitted as much when he said “it has no plot and remarkably little action.” This is a comedy of manners where words and subtle human interactions are everything.
The setting is the grand Bliss Family House in Cookham, England, June 1925. Judith Bliss is a retired actress who still yearns for bright lights and adoring audiences. She is played by Equity Actress Kathryn L. Johnson, whose first appearance at FAU’s Summer Rep dates back to 2006. She is now a faculty member and assistant professor of voice, speech and accents.
Fellow Guest Equity Artist Barry Tarallo plays patriarch David Bliss, who evidently is a novelist but does little else in the way of work.
Mr. And Mrs. Bliss are what we call “idle rich.” They enjoy little dalliances with younger characters to spice up their life.
The first jolt to the Bliss idyllic weekend is a visit by their quarrelsome grown children Sorel (Samantha Kaufman) and Simon (Jordan Armstrong). Each of the kids has romantic assignations in mind, but as the house fills with guests that becomes increasingly difficult.
These visitors are Sandy Tyrell (Ross Frawley) a fawning admirer of Mrs. Bliss; Independent-minded Myra Arundel (Kimberlee Connor), who is Simon’s best girlfiend; Richard Greatham (Connor Padilla), a callow youth who fancies Myra, and Jackie Coryton (Brianna Handy), a naïf who gets caught in the crossfire.
Keeping her head while all others are losing theirs is stalwart, all-knowing family maid Clara (Shannon Ouellette).
“Hay Fever” takes place in three acts: Saturday afternoon as guests arrive and introduce themselves; after a 15-minute intermission Saturday Evening, when things get complicated, and Sunday morning, which is the funniest scene, as guests attempt to discreetly flee their hosts.
“Hay Fever” is an ideal actor’s exercise, which is probably why Baldet chose this piece. Each gets to try out a British accent and embellish the peccadilloes of their characters. The costumes and set are of professional quality, which enhances the illusion of an English country manor. There are no major tragedies or great life lessons learned. “Hay Fever” is a pleasant diversion from our unlovely everyday life; an old-fashioned idyll, if you will.
Tickets are $20 general admission; $15 FAU faculty, staff and alumni and $12 students. Call 800-564-9539 or 561-297-6124.