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Colonial Players’ Communicating Doors

I’d gladly travel back in time for another first look at this production

Facing a time-travel problem, Star Trek Voyager’s Captain Janeway looked pained, rubbed her forehead and moaned, “Time-travel paradigms: they give me such a headache!”
    Colonial Players’ Communicating Doors will cure any time-travel problem, indeed any headache.
    Alan Ayckbourn, the heavily awarded British playwright, has written a mystery-comedy that requires a heavy dose of reality suspension as people time travel between 2014, 1994 and 1974 to test the bounds of love, the power of villainy and the ability of determined women to change the course of destiny.
    With such an imaginative (or you could say ludicrous) premise, this show could go wrong so easily. That it doesn’t is thanks to director Michelle Bruno, who achieves brilliance in this show, coaching convincing and quirky performances from her actors. The fabulous set by Terry Averill helps action seemed natural and time and spaces within a hotel room clearly defined.
    In 2014 a young woman, Poopay (Pamela Woodward), comes to sell sex to Reece Wells (Jeff Mocho), an older gentleman in his hotel room. Turns out what he wants is for her to witness his signature on a confession detailing how he caused the deaths of his two wives. Poopay finally agrees but is menaced by Reece’s business partner, Julian (Dave Carter), the actual killer. In panic she runs into a closet. When she steps out, it is 20 years earlier.
    In 1974 the same room is occupied by Ruella (Lillian Oben), Reece’s second wife, unknowingly about to meet her demise. Having heard the confession, Poopay knows what is in store and manages to convince Ruella that the wild story she tells is truthful.  The next time-travel adventure takes Ruella to 1974 to meet Jessica (Sarah Wade), Reece’s first wife, on her honeymoon in the same room.
    The three women time travel back and forth in hope of changing their fates. To do so, they must avoid Julian’s menace. They get unexpected assistance from Harold, Hotel Security (Nick Beschen).
    As to the actors, Annapolis has a new leading lady in Lillian Oben.  It is hard to be an elegant, refined comedienne — think Carole Lombard or Julie Andrews — but Oben rises to their company. A smoothing of the hair or a tug at the pearls (of course, pearls) by this gifted actress reveals character and becomes a funny bit.
    Pamela Woodward’s Poopay is quirky with unexpected speech patterns and facial responses, but she is utterly convincing as a character all about quirky.
    Dave Carter’s Julian is positively terrifying. How he can convey such menacing hostility is uncanny and creepy.
    Nick Beschen’s Harold only has a few moments to shine on stage and he does so, with keen focus and great comedic timing.
    Sarah Wade’s Jessica fades into the background until the final scenes where her bravado and spunk propel the conclusion and she reveals a young woman transformed.
    Jeff Mocho’s Reece is the character around whom all this flurry takes place. He doesn’t age from scene to scene as well as could be hoped, but his final scene with his daughter is sweet, tender and convincing.
    A few flaws in the over-long script and mistakes in era-defining props grab attention because everything else is so exceedingly well done.
    Ayckbourn pays homage to the great earliest sci-fi writers, H.G. Wells (Reece shares his last name) and Jules Verne (as in Julian) in allusions that add to his play’s sense of continuity through time.
    Communicating Doors makes me wish time-travel was real so I could experience this production again for the first time.

Playing Th-Sa 8pm, Su 2pm thru Oct. 12 at the Colonial Players Theatre, Annapolis. $20 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-268-7373;