At South Park Theatre for a production of Nick Hall's Beside Yourself, you're bound to notice first a stage set with three doors and three hallways. And the program calls this play "the ultimate mistaken identity comedy." Oh boy, slapping your thigh, you think, "a farce," and that maybe this will be as riotous as The Comedy of Errors.
I mean, the concept goes back to early Greeks and Romans, who must have known what tickles funnybones. "Something for everybawdy," as Sondheim says. Maybe a sex farce. Yum. Dig this: married people at a motel for a conference on human behavior, with Sally Brown getting the ball rolling by declaring she wants to have an affair.
Forget it. Nobody goes to bed with anybody, not even husbands and wives. Nobody swings. The doors don't even swing; they only open once in a while. Mostly everyone stands around trying to figure out who is who and with whom. See, there are four sets of twins, as if Hall is trying to double the fun. This ain't Shakespeare, pal.
Names: Bob, Bill, Sally, Sue, Brown, Grey, Green and White. Clues to the playwright's imagination. Physical business? Not much. Running around crazy? Yeah, once or twice. Pratfalls? Nah. Slamming doors? Nope.
Despite the clumsy 1976 script, this could be a delight for actors, each playing two separate characters. Doing that well might help distinguish twins from one another, letting the audience in on what the characters may not know. But this cast, despite reasonable skill delivering the lines, doesn't have much versatility. And director Jason Stiteler doesn't seem to have been much help, unable even to get costume-designer Rachel Parent to simply accessorize diversity.
A saving grace: Johnny Terreri, as brothers Jim and Jack, gives each guy a distinct personality and, with a goofy mustache and naturally comic body language, he's got something that supersedes the lame material. Actually, Hall gets off a few solid laugh lines. He also manages to throw in a good serious speech when Sue Grey, living singly in New York, laments the vicissitudes of her solitary life.
The program book says Hall has "published many plays." Publishing doesn't mean that they were produced. If the others resemble this, I'd prefer to stay at home, shut the door and cuddle up with a good wife.
Beside Yourself continues through June 6. South Park Theatre, Corrigan Drive and Brownsville Road, South Park. 412 831-8552 or www.southparktheatre.com