“X-Men” Is Sloppy Summer Fun

Plus a review of the Wilma's My Wonderful Day

Until 2009 the name Alan Ayckbourn meant absolutely nothing to me. The only reason I even heard it was because of a Broadway revival of a trilogy of his plays, The Norman Conquests, which were getting stupendous reviews. Additionally, the unusual concept intrigued me: Three distinct but inter-connected plays focus on the same six characters, the same weekend, and the same house. What sets the plays apart, however, is that each takes place in a different room. So when I heard that they would be performing all three plays on single days, I got my tickets. And for 12 hours—with breaks, of course—I learned Alan Ayckbourn’s name. And became a fan.

Ayckbourn thrives in the idiosyncrasies of people and relationships. He is able to find humor in, many times, painful situations. (Thankfully, he’s never above adding in a pratfall.) Yet we never feel bad about laughing at his characters—you always feel how much he cares for them. Which is definitely true in the Wilma’s lovely production of My Wonderful Day.

Unable to leave her “sick” daughter at home for the day, the very pregnant Laverne (Opal Alladin) must take her young daughter Winnie (Lavita Shaurice) along with her on a cleaning job. Sitting in the living room of a very expensive London home, Winnie begins working on her school assignment discussing her “wonderful day.” Quickly, this assignment becomes a recording of the events (affairs, bad language, violence) that surround her.

Wonderful Day displays Ayckbourn’s love of playing with theatrical conventionalities. But in Wonderful Day, unlike Conquests, he does not play with structure. Instead, he plays with characters. Using Winnie as our eyes and ears into this world, the adult characters become exaggerated. Winnie’s mother is too talkative. Tiffany (Kelly O’Sullivan) tries too hard to connect. Kevin (David Andrew Macdonald) is too jackass-y. Each is like a picture where the child has drawn outside of the lines.

Richard Hamburger and the cast bring a lot of warmth to this material. The tremendous Opal Alladin (who also gave a fine performance in the Wilma’s In The Next Room, or the vibrator play) and Lavita Shaurice shine during their moments—instantly making you believe their true love for each other. Kelly O’Sullivan and John Zak (Josh) also bring hilarious and wonderfully unexpected physicality to their parts. Kate Eastwood Norris (Paula) is perfectly brash and David Andrew Macdonald is effortlessly lascivious.

Though I wish there had been a few more quiet moments, like those between Laverne and Winnie, I couldn’t help but be completely charmed by this production. It is a wonderful end to a wonderful season. And hopefully, it will familiarize many more with the name Alan Ayckbourn.

X-Men: First Class
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence in skimpy outfits. Comic book mutants. Evil Kevin Bacon. Retro 60s costumes and sets. If one (or more) of these intrigues you, you’re probably already planning on seeing X-Men: First Class regardless of the reviews. But for everyone else, go see it. Seriously. Though it’s not in the same category as the recent Thor, it is still a fun—but slightly sloppy and a bit long—summer diversion. And honestly, Bacon’s ridiculously over-the-top, scenery-chewing performance is worth admission alone. But parents be warned: Yes, the movie is rated PG-13, but though there’s very little blood, there are many, many violent deaths. My Grade: B

The Importance of Being Earnest
Don’t have time to get to New York before the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 12? Then head to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute this Sunday to see Brian Bedford’s Tony-nominated performance in a screening of The Importance of Being Earnest—which also received nominations for Best Revival of a Play and Best Costumes. Did I mention that Brian Bedford, who also directs, plays Lady Bracknell?

Follow Aaron Mettey on Twitter @AaroMets. For details on the week’s best events delivered to your inbox every Wednesday, sign up for our A&E and nightlife newsletter, The Weekender.