Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hilarity, intrigue in 'Communicating Doors'

Charles Shaw Robinson as Reece tries to get Sharon Rietkerk as Poopay to witness his confession.

A woman trying to hide in what she believes to be a storage closet suddenly finds herself back in the same room 20 years earlier.

That’s one of the many surprises in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Communicating Doors,” presented by Center Repertory Company.

The woman, Phoebe, who goes by Poopay (Sharon Rietkerk), has been summoned to a London hotel suite occupied by the wealthy Reece (Charles Shaw Robinson) in 2023. A leather-clad dominatrix, she calls herself a specialist sexual consultant.

The doddering, dying Reece doesn’t want her professional services. Instead he wants her to sign as a witness to his handwritten confession of his misdeeds over the years.

Among them are that he was responsible for his two wives’ deaths at the hands of the villainous Julian (Robert Sicular), his business partner and friend.

Threatened by Julian, she hides in the closet, and the time travels begin. When she emerges 20 years earlier in 2003, she meets Ruella (Julie Eccles), Reece’s second wife.

Julie Eccles appears as Ruella.
Although naturally skeptical, Ruella begins to see validity in Phoebe’s warning that her life is in danger.

They decide Phoebe must go back yet another 20 years to warn Reece’s first wife, Jessica (Brittany Danielle), who’s honeymooning with him in the same suite in 1983.

Hilarity and intrigue ensue as the three scheme to alter their situations.

Compounding the humor is the hotel’s well-meaning but none too bright security man, Harold (Mark Anderson Phillips).

Artistic director Michael Butler guides his multi-talented cast through this combination of mystery, sci-fi and farce. Each actor has impeccable comic timing.

Perhaps this production is a time warp for Butler, too. He played Harold to his wife-to-be Timothy Near’s Ruella at the now defunct San Jose Repertory Theatre in 1999.

The tastefully elegant set is by Richard Olmsted with lighting by Kurt Landisman, costumes by Maggie Moran and sound by Cliff Caruthers.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Communicating Doors” will continue through Feb. 23 at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.

For tickets and information, call (925) 943-7469 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne