Alan Ackbourn's Communicating Doors, which is currently playing at 2nd Story in Warren, RI, begins as a traditional, light-hearted farce, brimming with wrong assumptions and mistaken identities and quickly assumes a sci-fi/film noir vibe.
Working girl, Poopay (Lara Hakeem), has been summoned to a swanky hotel suite; not for her usual gig as "dominatrix" - but for something more in the style of "notary public". You see, Poopay has been called to witness the signature on an elderly man's confession (Wayne Kneeland as Reece) that he had his two wives murdered; with the actual deed being done by his long-time assistant, Julian (Terrence Shea).
In Ackbourn's creation, the seemingly static hotel room (a lush set, designed by Trevor Elliot) is actually three distinct settings; one present day, one exactly twenty years in the past and one exactly twenty years in the future. 2031 and 1991 are reached via the connecting, or "communicating", doors between rooms that serve as a time machine.
Poopay recruits wife #1, Jessica (Laura Sorensen as the rich, newlywed ingénue) and wife #2, Ruella (Sharon Carpentier as the grounded, plucky, spouse), to travel back and forth in time in a 40-year race against the clock: they are trying to rewrite history and prevent their own violent deaths.
There are lots of entrances and exits - just the kind that Ed Shea is known for - the actors handle the intricate staging (including a naughty, but hilarious, sight-gag) with aplomb while turning in consistently strong performances.
Lara Hakeem's Poopay is vulnerable, funny and sympathetic (not that she wants your sympathy). Hakeem does a terrific job setting tone for her cohorts Sharon Carpentier and Laura Sorenson; somewhere in between Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Psycho. This trio of heroines has an easy chemistry.
The male villains, Wayne Kneeland as Reece and Terrance Shea as Julian, are nicely played as 100% pure stereotype. Joe Ouellette does a fine job as the long-suffering house detective that has to deal with the chaos in three separate time periods.
Playwright Ackbourn has his characters ruminate on the effects of disrupting the time/space continuum, just enough to make the audience's head spin; under Ed Shea's deft direction the audience can forget about logic and just laugh.
Communicating Doors plays at 2nd Story Theatre through October 23, 2011. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Box Office which is located at 28 Market St., Warren, RI; by phone at (401) 247 4200 or online at www.2ndstorytheatre.com.
Photo: The cast of 2nd Story Theatre's production of Communicating Doors: (F-B, L-R) Lara Hakeem as Poopay, Sharon Carpentier as Ruella, Laura Sorensen as Jessica, Terrence Shea as Julian, Wayne Kneeland as Reece and Joe Ouellette as Harold.
Photo by Richard W. Dionne Jr.; courtesy of 2nd Story Theatre