For its inaugural production, Francis Gercke and Jessica John’s Backyard Renaissance theater company chose British playwright Jez Butterworth’s Parlour Song. It’s a bittersweet triangle tale involving an Englishman who blows things up for a living (Mike Sears), his sad, disillusioned spouse (John) and a high-wired car-wash owner. Each in his or her own way is facing the inevitability of middle age and beyond, and not with the so-called quiet desperation generally attributed to the English.
Ponderous though it can be, Parlour Song offers many laugh-aloud moments, most of them when Sears’ pitifully paranoid character, Ned, is on stage, such as his feebly trying to get into shape or getting caught listening to a clinical-voiced sex advice tape. Lisa Berger directs this one-act play with a smart understanding of Butterworth’s more existential messages that underlie the domestic turmoil, and with an appreciation for her cast’s particular talents – Sears’ physical comedy, Gercke’s intense energy and John’s sheer plaintiveness. For Backyard Renaissance, Parlour Song marks a propitious beginning.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.