Part of 59E59's Brits Off Broadway fest, Alan Ayckbourn's 1974 collection of five comic playlets explores the sexual politics of '70s Britain. More…
From a devoted and isolated mother to her unfaithful travelling salesman husband, a solicitous waiter to well-heeled diners and an utterly shambolic garden fete, human frailty is laid bare as one comic situation after another unfolds. Each play connects to the next through one of its characters until the final one is reached, when four people sit alone on park benches. This production is directed by the celebrated Ayckbourn himself, and runs in repertory with his latest play: 'Hero's Welcome.'
"It's the stuff that great theatre is made of. The stories in 'Confusions' are timeless snapshots of real life that perfectly capture human foibles. They showcase Ayckbourn's remarkable gift for dialogue and his keen understanding of relationships...The cast captures their roles with complete authenticity. As the five actors play multiple parts, they prove their diverse talents...The show's characters are wonderfully developed, and the company doesn't miss a beat." Full Review
"Funnier than just about anything else to be seen on a New York stage right now 'Confusions' is a dessert platter, five sketches about various aspects of middle-class life…The six talented actors handle their multiple roles so resourcefully that you’re likely to come away thinking you saw at least a dozen different people cavorting on the tiny stage...Has there ever been a playwright who directed his own works more skillfully and imaginatively? I doubt it." Full Review
"Hysterical yet thoughtful theater…'Confusions' succeeds on many levels. The actors’ comedic timing and moment-to-moment dramatic skill inspired by the director/playwright never lose energy, substance or intention. The artistic design, the order of the plays in the program, the staging, sets and props, as well as the musical interludes between the acts are well balanced and stylistically inspiring. This is a fine production which manifests Ayckbourn’s acute vision throughout." Full Review
"A masterly series of vignettes in which characters try hard to maintain normalcy and decorum, but when a single truth is revealed through an ill-timed but dramatically funny mishap, a more personal and meaningful internal world is uncovered. The cast of five skillfully play a handful of characters...Ayckbourn also captures how communication is about energy and not necessarily words." Full Review
"This outstanding production was well worth waiting for...Because 'A Talk in the Park' is so different from the other four plays, some critics over the years have contended that it should not have been included...I actually consider it the best of the five plays, the one that is the most thought-provoking, and the one that leads us to reassess the other four in a different light...The five-person ensemble cast is absolutely brilliant with each called upon to play diametrically different roles." Full Review
"This staging loses little in crossing the Atlantic at a distance of four decades, due to the universality of its sharp observations about the human condition...A quintet of highly capable actors play some 20 different roles with panache…The play abounds with intelligent dialog, astute social commentary, and adroitly constructed characters who segue into successive scenes. Yet it never becomes 'too clever by half.'" Full Review
"They’re trifles by his later standards...But these five one-acters allow you to see clearly the basic building blocks from which Mr. Ayckbourn constructs his more complex works. And even the silliest of them is steeped in the critical yet compassionate sensibility that is uniquely their creator’s...One of the primary joys of ‘Confusions’ is watching chameleon performers change identities with wigs and accents, while locations are transformed by the rearrangement of simple pieces of furniture.” Full Review
"Ayckbourn rarely falls below a certain laugh level. Many of his rib-tickling jokes—and the situations from which he derives them—involve rancorous marrieds. That’s the case with two of the five one-acts stuffing this jolly evening…Ayckbourn, a rare playwright who knows exactly how to direct his own work, does just that with endlessly skilled actors." Full Review
"Human behavior in all its complexities is dramatically rendered with depth and humor in a boldly theatrical and inventive manner...Ayckbourn is also the director and his staging farcically mines every bit of verbal and physical comedy with slapstick, sight gags and props...The captivating performances by the extremely versatile company matched with the excellent writing makes 'Confusions' thoughtful and very entertaining." Full Review
"With this production, Ayckbourn achieves his original goal. The five actors brilliantly transform themselves into each role with a mere change of costume. Expert farceurs, they draw huge belly laughs from the play's centerpiece, 'Gosforth's Fête,' which proves the highlight of the evening. While there's a dusty quality to it (the porno-groove incidental Muzak doesn't help), it's solidly enjoyable." Full Review
"The splendid cast plays many parts...Ayckbourn, with the precision of a brain surgeon, has created a collection of characters whose communication is not communication at all. It is myopic speech-o-fying at its best...If we are smart, we will see ourselves as compatriots of this lot and leave considering our own lives and relationships. If not, we will simply leave the theatre talking about what a clever writer that is Ayckbourn. Which sounds better to you?" Full Review
"The structure of 'Confusions' is so simple and ingenious, you wonder why it’s not used more often…It allows the characters to expand and surprise us, and, this being Ayckbourn, make us laugh. A lot…It helps that the actors are all splendid, changing their appearances and characterizations from episode to episode...Ayckbourn’s smart, funny variations on the battle of the sexes are forever fresh, and 'Confusions' solidifies his reputation as a master observer of human foibles." Full Review
“Playwright Alan Ayckbourn is at his best when commenting on social situations, as proven in a delightful revival of his 1974 quintet of one-act comedies, ‘Confusions.’ The different stories link together loosely and focus on the idea of being emotionally alone...Ayckbourn guides the different stories with a sure hand, bringing forth the proper emotions and atmosphere for each. Add to this the excellent cast in their multiple roles, and the result is very enjoyable indeed.” Full Review
"The five intertwined skits that comprise Ayckbourn’s 'Confusions' are by turns hilarious and poignant. Fast-moving and deftly acted, the five-character ensemble whips through a myriad of scenarios...'Confusions' is entertaining, and although a few sharp barbs about gender and monogamy are exchanged, there are more laughs than insights. Overall, it’s a fun piece of theater." Full Review
"Even if this is a middling example of the playwright's work, there are many priceless moments and one should never pass up a chance to see a company from the Stephen Joseph Theatre, of Scarborough, UK directed by the author himself. For some reason, American actors have never quite gotten the hang of Ayckbourn's comedies, and this production offers a master class in his distinctive comic style." Full Review
"Much like watching a Neil Simon comedy of the same era, seeing these comedies about marital dysfunction, adultery, male chauvinism, romantic disappointment, and related subjects—mostly about women getting the short end of the stick—allows us to compare attitudes of those times with ours...Mildly enjoyable as the plays are (the laughs are mainly of the chuckle variety), the chief reason to see them is the marvelous comic versatility of the five-member ensemble." Full Review
"It's a period piece, but interesting for the way it contains the seeds of Ayckbourn’s style and ideas ready to burst into full bloom...The best thing about it is to see the subtle thematic connections that more often than not make these essentially separate one-acts feel like parts of a unified whole...Billington's waiter is so funny in ‘Drinking Companion’ that you'll be glad that his character will carry over into the next and best play, ‘Between Mouthfuls.’" Full Review
"In play after pensive, droll and acid play, Ayckbourn anatomizes how we fail to understand and trust our lovers and friends...'Confusions' is a series of five one-acts. Several of the vignettes are loosely interlinked...Ayckbourn directs with a reliance on vivid performances, evocative costumes and cheap furnishings. The actors he has assembled are gutsy and supple...What’s most interesting is the persistence and evolution of Ayckbourn’s themes and interests." Full Review
"'Confusions' consists of five playlets…They mostly hit their marks with only one major misfire…Ayckbourn’s direction is well-paced and unobtrusive…Except for 'A Talk in the Park,' Ayckbourn keeps the audience chuckling throughout. His humor is not side-splitting, but it is consistent and his well-drawn characters keep us engaged. Situations are sometimes contrived but we hardly notice. He has a gift for making the outrageous seem like a matter of course." Full Review
"The truth is what really connects these one-acts in Ayckbourn’s delicious sense of the ridiculous…Ayckbourn does a good job directing a talented and versatile cast…But one can’t help wondering what an extra set of eyes and ears might have done with Ayckbourn’s caustic wit…At the end of 'A Talk in the Park,' Ernest says, 'Most of our lives are noise, aren’t they?' It’s when Ayckbourn makes some sense out of all that noise that 'Confusions' is most effective." Full Review
"The performers never utter a false note, and seeing them put their expertise to work is a joy in itself...Mr. Ayckbourn has a keen ear for how people talk, for how they are, and his dialogue flows effortlessly. Yet he doesn’t take us very far with his insights…Nothing happens that challenges our expectations. Also, much of the writing feels dated and corny, like the setup to a joke whose punch line we know even if we’ve never heard it…I just prefer something a bit more substantial." Full Review
"This critic was quite frankly quite bored...It all seems just too dated and irrelevant...While it is therapeutic to laugh at ourselves and our foibles, there needs to be some other payoff to two hours and fifteen minutes of tom foolery. Under Mr. Ayckbourn’s careful direction, the ensemble cast is brilliant and does its individual and collective best to breathe new life into these five plays. It is the vintage of the plays and not the craft of these fine actors that weigh down the effort." Full Review
"The actors get ample opportunity to demonstrate their superb timing and talent for physical humor…The first two plays run on a bit too long after making their point. The plays that precede and follow intermission are the most entertaining. For me the dry patches were more than compensated for by the hilarious moments." Full Review
for a previous production “Don't be confused but ‘Confusions’ is not so much one play as five one-act plays within one play...All five plays are a delight, individually and collectively, and writer-director Ayckbourn has picked a particularly wonderful cast to maximise the twists and turns, surprises and inevitabilities of his splendid revival. You will laugh from start to finish, so book now for ‘Confusions’: it makes perfect sense.” Full Review
See it if You like Ackbourn, you love idea of 5-1 acts.Cast is brilliant, the combo of plays interesting & fun, director has just the right touch.
Don't see it if You have trouble understanding British accents, don't like farce, want very serious drama, don't appreciate small bits of staging/acting.
See it if you are a fan of Ayckbourn. If you want to see the U.S. premiere of a play written 40 years ago—and acts as a model for some earlier works.
Don't see it if you do not know anything about the British class system. Or if you like to be hit over the head in order to understand humor.
See it if you're a fan of British comedy. Always great to see a show directed well by the playwright. This could be the definitive production.
Don't see it if you're looking for action or fireworks.
See it if u love English theatre & Ayckbourn's take on our foibles. The hilarity comes w/ the sadness & pain of human relations. The five actors shine
Don't see it if u don't get the English or you think funny can't also be truthful & painful. Two people sitting next to me never laughed & left at break.
See it if you enjoy the work of Alan Ayckbourn, & are in need of an evening of light comedic fare performed by a versatile cast.
Don't see it if you need more heft and complexity to your shows.
See it if you enjoy a series of unrelated short plays about dysfunctional relationships and the failure to understand / connect with each other
Don't see it if you dislike farce, silly humor, or short stories without much character development
See it if you like British comedy in the slapstick fashion. 4 episodes that leave you laughing throughout the show. Mom talks to all like children.
Don't see it if you can't understand English dialect or dislike British humor.
See it if you enjoy Alan Ayckbourn's entertaining and intricately wrought scenarios about personal relationships. Directed by the playwright himself.
Don't see it if you don't appreciate skit-like plays or British humor.
See it if Liek short plays that give you great character depth quickly. Enjoy British silly humor.
Don't see it if Don't like short plays. I loved the first and the last worth seeing for those alone. The third one was very clever I enjoyed the timing.
See it if you like seeing talented actors play multiple parts very well. Well directed with clever scene changes.
Don't see it if you want to see a full-length play. These are five one acts. First two pieces were very entertaining. Other three were almost as good.
See it if You like Aychbourn and know what to expect- some funny scenes, stock characters, cartoonish acting. Still two out of five are quite funny.
Don't see it if You've seen enough Britcoms. It's fun to see the actors in many different roles but still the material is rather thin.
See it if You're clear that light fare with a dark undertow of unhappy relationships, served up w some cool structural conceits is worth your time.
Don't see it if You want to be wowed. But Ayckbourn is clear-eyed about his message & how to present it with admirable professionalism.
See it if you're a fan of short plays; if you like Ayckbourn; if you enjoy humor mixed with a touch of poignancy
Don't see it if you're looking for an absorbing night of serious theater; if you want a full-length play (this is three short plays)
See it if you enjoy a hearty laugh, and are not put off by silliness and slightly old fashioned humor; these are Brits, after all!
Don't see it if you are put off by silliness and British humor; you don't mind not understanding every word because of heavy accents.
See it if You are a Ayckbourn fan. You won't be disappointed with these fresh new one acts. You love sophisticated comedy that turns into farce !
Don't see it if You aren't willing to struggle at least in the first few moments to understand the rapid patter of British accents. Farce is not for you.
See it if You like Alan Ayckbourne & interconnected short plays. It's interesting to watch the five actors play so many parts throughout the evening.
Don't see it if You want a play with one easy to follow story. Seemed dated. The first one was my favorite.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies