I finally figured it out: the quintessential element absent from most theatrical productions. This mystery element is simple: a time-traveling dominatrix! I never knew I was missing it until I watched a rehearsal of Cascades Theatrical Company's Communicating Doors. But now that I've seen it, I know that a bit of batshit insanity would make every theater production better.
The story begins in present day, where a dominatrix, Poopay, shows up to the five-star Regal Hotel in London to ply her wares on an aging and sickly millionaire, Reece. After his bullying caretaker/business partner, Julian, arranges everything and leaves the room, Poopay soon learns that Reece doesn't actually want a bit of the old ultra-violence, but instead wants her to witness, sign and deliver his confession to a lawyer.
Turns out, both of Reece's wives were murdered in the past; one in 1994 and the other in 1974 by (da-dum) Julian. The story moves forward once Julian realizes that Reece has given his confession to Poopay and, not surprisingly, Julian tries to kill the dominatrix. She, however, escapes through the connecting door to the other hotel room; except instead of ending up in a different room, she comes out in the same room, 20 years earlier, just in time to try and prevent the death of Reece's first wife, Ruella. (Whoa!)
This might sound a little plot heavy, but playwright Alan Ayckbourn keeps the laughs coming almost as furiously as the pace and, fortunately, the script never gets bogged down in time travel logic and over-explanation of time lines and their differences. Instead, the play is more a fast-paced comedy/thriller than a sci-fi romp, all of which leaves ample space for character development and nuance.
Mountain View High School theater legend Deb De Grosse has a very light touch with her direction, allowing the script and performances to carry the piece further than if it relied on gimmicky time travel shenanigans. As either Shakespeare or Hitchcock or both said, the script is the ticket and De Grosse never once stands in its way with unnecessary flourishes and pageantry—a wise choice.
At heart, the show is a farce, and it takes a very talented cast to keep the pace as breakneck as all the best farces have to be and, for the most part, this cast performs admirably. But it is the triumvirate of female performances that truly carries the work into something special.
Amber Hanson brings a world-weary grace to the role of Poopay that turns what could have been a very superficial role into something layered and, ultimately, beautiful.
Lynn Jesus gives what is easily the most physically demanding performance I've seen on stage this year and paints the frantic character of Ruella with a lived-in warmth and humor. Finally, Sydnee O'Loughlin plays Reece's first wife, Jessica, with such a luminous and delicate poise that she brings to life a character that would play as underwritten by a lesser actress.
Communicating Doors is one heck of a genre mash-up. If murder, time travel, sex, mistaken identities and black leather are your thing, then not only will you enjoy this show, but we should also be friends.
Thursday-Sunday, through June 28
Cascades Theatrical Company, 148 NW Greenwood Ave.