Taking Steps at the Odyssey
There’s certainly something to be said for being prolific, and in that regard, there are few playwrights who can touch Alan Ayckbourn. The Englishman has written an astonishing 72 plays in his 50-year career, and while some are almost certainly classics, others perhaps may not be quite up to his usual standards.
“Taking Steps,” his 23rd play, has the usual contraptions of British farce: Broad, funny, middle-class characters, mistaken identities, exits and entrances timed to the split-second, and of course, a half-naked woman. That Ayckbourn’s panting muse seems to pull off to the side of the road for a breather every now and again in this one is forgivable, but it does occasionally stretch credibility.
There are still good things to recommend in this production, though. After all, the Odyssey Theatre consistently houses some of the best theatre to be found in Los Angeles, and there are no real clunkers here. Marty Ryan comes across favorably as Roland, the gruff, blustering husband to a flighty, would-be dancer wife (Melanie Lora). Andy Hoff is amusing as the brother-in-law whose long-windedness is an almost surefire cure for insomnia, and Jonathan Runyon, whose nebbishy junior-partner solicitor can’t seem to get a complete sentence out of his befuddled tongue, finally gets a chance to shine when he meets a kindred spirit (Kate Rylie).
The most consistent laugh-getter was the clever way in which co-directors Ron Sossi and Allan Miller turned Nadia Morgan’s one-level set into a three-story house. While perhaps not a shining example of British farce, “Taking Steps” is still worth braving the traffic to Santa Monica.