It's the year 2024 and Phoebe walks through the wrong hotel door and into a world of danger. She meets another woman, Ruella, and together they try to stop someone being killed, as they flip back and forth through time.
Alley Theatre Artistic Director Gregory Boyd who describes the comedy Communicating Doors as "Back to the Future meets Hitchcock," says the science fiction format allows playwright Alan Ayckbourn a wonderful way in which to write allegorical stories.
"On one level it's an 'old dark house' thriller where women in their nightclothes are failing to turn on the lights even though they know there is something in the dark that means them harm. On another level, it is Ruella and Phoebe's developing friendship - the Head meets the Heart and they join forces against the dark. And it's also a battle for the young girl's soul. And then it's a comedy too - but the comedy grows out of the tension of the thriller element. The women are in real danger. So it's a romance, a comedy, a sci-fi adventure story. It's a play about "what if" - a time-travel tale concealed in a morality play."
Alley favorite Josie de Guzman plays Ruella, Julie Sharbutt (making her Alley debut) plays Phoebe, while resident company members Jeffrey Bean, James Black, Melissa Pritchett and Todd Waite round out the cast.
"The women in this play are the central figures - and the men create the problems, sometimes very frightening ones. The women are thrust into the heroine roles and they have to outthink and outsmart and outmaneuver the darker forces represented by the male characters. They are the true definition of heroes, I think, putting everything at risk," says Boyd, who's been wanting to do another Ayckbourn play for years, ever since House & Garden in 2002.
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"Communicating Doors has all the Ayckbourn virtues of wonderful roles, wonderful comedy and thought provoking themes, wrapped up in a highly theatrical idea. It was perfect for the Company actors and I was eager to direct it - it has a particular set of challenges," Boyd says.
The Alley has produced 11 Ayckbourn plays. The playwright has been much honored: "inducted into the American Theatre's Hall of Fame, received the 2010 Critics' Circle Award for Services to the Arts, became the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards and was knighted in 1997 for services to the theater," according to an Alley press release.
When originally written in 1994, Communicating Doors covered the years from 1974 to 2014. When asked how correctly had Ayckbourn predicted the future, Boyd says that's not the point. "It's not about predicting the future so much as characters trying to manipulate events in one time to affect the outcome in the future. Ayckbourn is more concerned with how our destinies lie in our own hands, that we can try to rewrite our own lives."
And, he says: "When Ayckbourn revived the play recently, he changed the times in which the play takes place to 2034, 2014, and 1994 - with 2034 being "the present" - there is a dystopian element, with civil war in London, the landscape rearranged and virtual sex having arrived," Boyd says. Communicating Doors runs April 9 through 27 at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Avenue. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. For information call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26-78