Broadway veterans Michael Cumpsty, Brooks Ashmanskas and Melissa Van Der Schyff help bring Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s “wildly British” comedy of ill manners ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR to the stage of Two River Theater, beginning in previews this weekend.
The dried-out, needle-shedding Christmas trees of the greater Red Bank (ever)Green may be headed out to the curb as we post this, but for the next several weeks the holiday gatherings are in full force on the stage of Two River Theater — not just “this Christmas,” but “last Christmas” and even “next Christmas,” during the three acts of the ensemble comedy Absurd Person Singular.
If that whirlwind tour through Yuletides both yesteryear and Yet to Come sounds straight out of the Scroogely scrivenings of Charles Dickens, rest assured that the 1972 Singular springs from the electric typewriter of a more modern British observer of class and social mores: the prolific playwright, screenwriter and director Sir Alan Ayckbourn. The Tony- and Olivier Award winning theatrical titan (whose recent play My Wonderful Day was produced on the Two River stage a couple of seasons back) may not have made as big a splash on this side of the pond as in his native UK — but in the words of Brooks Ashmanskas, this “wildly British,” darkly comic 1970s take on all-consuming ambition, strained relationships and the effect of New Money on the Old Order “seems very 1980s from an American point of view…it should be very clear to all of us who’ve lived through the last 30 years.”
A Tony nominee for his work in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, Ashmanskas is one of several Broadway veterans sinking their teeth into the play’s sextet of naive, neurotic, alcoholic, ass-kissing, suicidal, snarky, snobbish and altogether comical characters — as Absurd Person Singular begins a round of previews this Saturday, in advance of a limited engagement that runs through February 1.