In Ross Valley Players on July 15, 2009 at 10:17 pm

This tale of the misheard, the unspoken and the sadly misunderstood, marks the West Coast premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s Private Fears in Public Places.

If this magnificently realized bittersweet contemporary comedy, is an example of the work of the estimable Alan Ayckbourn, the production of his plays on the west coast are long overdue.   Furthermore, his works should be seen here annually, at the minimum. A thoroughly engaging sextet of the Ross Valley players has brought us Ayckbourn’s 67th play for an all-too-limited run. While the play concerns six white collar workers whose lives at first appear to be very ordinary and perhaps even inconsequential, the longish one-act (one hour and fifty minutes) not only sails by, but also fascinatingly reveals more and more layers of each small life, scene by scene.  As the revelations come, so do the laughs.

This staging has impeccable timing. The ensemble plays with no concern for star quality, and brilliance in both the writing and design all contribute to an enveloping pleasure that sparkles and satisfies even as it sometimes saddens the heart.

Linnea George plays a complicated, lonely young woman in the Ross Valley Players' current production of Private Fears in Public Places. Photo by Ron Severdia

Linnea George plays a complicated, lonely young woman in the Ross Valley Players' current production of Private Fears in Public Places. Photo by Ron Severdia

Jessica Holt directs with both authority and effectiveness to achieve sharp characterizations and brisk pacing.  She has a knack for bringing out the best in both her cast and her production team, even when the script is purposefully silent as the action continues. While the deliberate pauses in some plays tend to add tension, in Ayckbourn’s they are more likely to reveal personality foibles and produce humor through a richer understanding of character. Ron Krempetz set appropriately would be described as minimalist, but the set contributes a rare fluidity that permits scenes to shift repeatedly from place to place with sharp clarity and hardly a need for moving a thing onstage. An imaginatively clever lighting design by Carrie Mullen enhances this effect.

Ayckbourn’s characters are so natural in their ordinariness that they seem like the people who live down the block or across the hall, folks we may see daily and wonder about but rarely ever get beyond sharing a polite “hello.” All six performers are wonderful in finding dimension and credibility in their characterizations. Especially touching is Stewart (Keith Jefferds) as a desperately lonely real estate agent and Ambrose (Jim Fye) as a secretive hotel bartender who selflessly cares for his elderly invalid parent. Hilariously intriguing are Charlotte(Linnea George) as the real estate agent’s co-worker who adroitly balances biblical solace with raunchy sexual fantasies and Imogen(Lauren Rosi) as Stewart’s spinster sister who ritually hunts for a meaningful assignation that might change her dreary life. Rounding out the group is a mismatched young couple whose relationship is crumbling even as they search in vain for the perfect apartment: Nicola (Dana Zook) is a career-driven yuppie yearning for a meaningful future and Dan (Patrick Barresi) her mate, a military misfit trying to escape life’s demands through liquor. Two of these six lonely but striving individuals wind up on a hilarious blind date in which both disguise their true identities.

Ayckbourn has been described as a Chekhovian working in Britain, and like that Russian master, deliberately blurs tragedy and comedy. While Chekhov’s comic side often suffers in modern interpretations, in this work Ayckbourn’s play never fails to find the uproarious laughter hidden under the sadness.




Thursdays 7:30pm

Friday and Saturday 8:00pm

Sundays; July 26th through August 16 2:00pm


Where: The Barn, Marin Art & Garden Center,

30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Ross, CA


Ticket Prices:

General Admission             $25

Seniors (62+)            $20

Youth(18 or under)  $20

Thursday shows      $15 (No additional discounts)


Box Office 415 456-9555 or


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