The Bed Trick-World Premier at Seattle Shakes

World Premier of Comedy

Plays inspired from Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies have opened in two Puget Sound Theatres this weekend. One of the Bard’s great tragedies’ King Lear inspired Taking Leave at Dukesbay Productions in Tacoma and the lesser known All’s Well that End’s Well, inspired the world premiere of The Bed Trick at Seattle Shakes.

The “bed trick”, found in Western Literature from the Bible to present day, involves triangulated love stories, where the female “true” love disguises herself and ends up in bed with the man, who has previously spurred her. Hormones and physical love save the day and the girl gets the boy.

Directed by Makaela Milburn, The Bed Trick by Keiko Green involves several triangulated relationships revolving around a highly narcissistic character named Lulu (Rachel Guyer-Mafune), a freshman in college with two roommates in a dorm, and a boyfriend in a college nearby.

Her narcissistic facade unsuccessfully hides her deep insecurities; as a result she is extremely power-hungry and manipulates her roommates with love-bombing, coy seduction, bragging and all the other wiles of narcissists.

In spite of the astute psychology, the playwright chose to turn it into a Bedroom Farce, in the age of online dating sites. The plot involves Lulu’s roommate discovering that Lulu’s long-term boyfriend, Willis, has posted himself on a dating website. Using modern technology, Lulu signs up the third roommate to answer the boyfriend. Bedlam ensues.

Unfortunately, the play itself had structural flaws. The unnecessarily long exposition took all of Act I, while much of the dialogue was written in what can only be called 1980’s Valley Girl clichés. Also a thematically linked subplot was not well integrated into the plot. The director, Makaela Milburn, made the mistake many directors do, in that she generally had the actors play everything for laughs, rather than have the actors connect with the inherent tragic emotions of the situation. It also affected their speech.

Unfortunately, since the script was written in the authentic Valley Girl dialect, the three actresses playing the roommates adopted the pathological vocal patterns of Valley Girl speak, that is to say, speaking above their optimal pitches, with a specific intonation pattern-an inappropriate upending at the end of a declarative sentence. It was artificial, so they were not breathing, which damages the vocal folds and creates screechy irritating voices. When the script called for them to speak authentically, their vocal registers dropped, and real emotions were communicated to the audience.

Ricky Spalding as Willis
Photo: Giao Nguyen

The one actor who was “director proof” was the boyfriend, Willis, played by Ricky Spaulding. Generally when he was on stage, he drew the audience in, and we perceived a vulnerable 18 year-old grappling with real emotions as he articulated the reasons why he wanted to extricate himself from a toxic, but secure, relationship.

The authentic looking set by Parmida Ziaei, looked like exactly like a triple dorm room, of the messy variety. There was one single bed, and a bunk bed. The roommate with the least clout got the upper bunk, and the chaos in the room reflected the chaos in the plot. The overall color scheme was orange, whose symbolism is disputed but can suggest autumn, since this was definitely the first term of freshman year, but it also can symbolize arrogance, and in the character of Lulu, arrogance was in abundance.

Photo by Giao Nguyen

At the end of Act II just before the finale, there was a scene which was directed with repeated loud shouting and almost physical violence, which made me cringe, it was that unpleasant. Again, it was a poor directorial choice when the audience was so close. I had to avert my eyes and like Cherubino I “tried my very best not to listen, ”

In general I would say that some people in the audience laughed, nobody walked out but there was no standing ovation.

In the past Seattle Shakespeare Company has presented superb versions, not just of Shakespeare, but of the classics: Moliere’s Tartuffe, Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession and of course Alison Narver’s stratospherically excellent Much Ado About Nothing. As a script, The Bed Trick was not of the same caliber.

The Bed Trick
Seattle Shakespeare Company. Center Theatre at Seattle Center. 305 Harrison. 98109. Wed-Sun 7:30 pm. Matinées Sat & Sun. 2 pm til Apr. 7.


N.B. Several performances are mask mandatory.

Parking is expensive in the garage. Street parking difficult, but free on Sundays.

Best transportation option is Light Rail to Westlake and then the monorail.

Bus #8 or #5.

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