Oldcastle gives “The Fourth Wall” their all

Oldcastle gives “The Fourth Wall” their all

A.R. Gurney’s The Fourth Wall is a tough play – it’s very meta, and doesn’t quite succeed; you can see where Gurney was going with it, but it gets a little too tied up in itself. However, Oldcastle Theatre Company’s production gives it 110%, and the result is a bright, cheerful production of what I find to be a lackluster script.

Roger (Peter Langstaff) has invited family friend Julia (Sarah Corey) to his home because he’s worried about his wife Peggy (Amy Gaither Hayes); she’s removed all the décor from one wall in their living room, and then situated all the furniture facing that blank wall. She addresses it as if she’s on stage, and refuses to put things back the way they were; it’s gotten so bad that Roger feels as if he, too, is on stage all the time. Julia attempts to get to the bottom of things by playing along, even inventing a plot for herself in Peggy’s “play,” but just decides that Peggy is losing her mind. Peggy, meanwhile, says she thinks that on the other side of the wall is an audience, and she’s trying to reach them. Roger calls in a theater professor, Floyd (Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone), to give his opinion, and Floyd sides with Peggy, even comparing her to Joan of Arc. The foursome is stuck in what seems to be a stage show – with music from Cole Porter, even – but is Peggy delusional, or is there something beyond the fourth wall?

Richard Howe’s set design is very by the book, which is important here – Floyd mentions that the living room looks like a stage set from the ‘30s, and it does: furniture, piano, fireplace, windows, and bar just as you’d imagine them in a basic set. It’s all quite beautiful, though, and well-done. Tim Howard has done a fine job with the direction – I may not have appreciated the show itself, but the actors were quick and witty, the songs were choreographed and sung so well (with gorgeous harmonies, no less) and the show was paced well.

Corey just sparkles here – she takes Julia’s character and runs with it. She’s all brash New Yorker, loud and full of herself, and so much fun to watch. Langstaff’s character isn’t given much to do, which is unfortunate – I’d like to have seen more of his work – but he makes the most of what he’s given. His takes to the audience and struggle with having to “act” are wonderful. Gaither Hayes has a more serious role, and does well with it; Ellison-Gladstone’s Floyd is a kick and must have had so much fun with the character, all know-it-all attitude and childish peevishness.

The theater says it has produced nine of Gurney’s plays, and the audience was laughing more than I was – so perhaps this is more an issue of this not being the right play for me personally. The production itself is flawless and quite stunning to watch – if you’re a Gurney fan, this may be just what you’re looking for.

“The Fourth Wall”; Oldcastle Theatre Company, 331 Main St., Bennington, VT; through August 19; $65-$12; Run time: 1 hour and 40 minutes;802-447-0564;

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