No goofy teen Hayley Mills bebops about in Bathsheba Doran’s hour long Parents Evening, presented by Proper Hijinx at the Addison Conference Center Studio Theatre through Sunday, October 1. An embattled, bickering, relentlessly flagellating homage to the ritual prep some couples with progeny must go through prior to engaging in parent-teacher conferences at the dreaded School Parent Night, the only essence of “Hayley Ms. Sunshine” occurs in the play’s final moment. Sans precedent, the couple steps out of “normal” behavior pattern. For the rest of the time, the marital duel is on, in all its merry aspects. Bicker, badger, battle, berate and bemoan they do, beat by beat, as the circumstance prepping the dreaded encounter unfolds. The never seen, doted upon, obnoxious child becomes as real as either onstage character, and the couple reveals key details about their relationship and who they are when not obsessing over precious, prepubescent poop-head. First World Problems of the Breeder Set? Much more fun to watch than to endure as a combatant.
And much fun it is. As nameless Father and Mother, Proper Hijinx AD and play director Stefany Cambra cast Jeff Swearingen and Robin Clayton, who both hit the boards with all the tenacious power of buzz saws ablaze. Most everyone in the region respects the diversity of talent and impeccable onstage timing Swearingen exhibits. This quirky playlet gives regional audiences the chance to see resourceful Ms. Clayton give as good as it gets, moment by moment, with a distinguished, scene-stealing partner. A securely crafted show (kudos to Bathsheba Doran), each character tumbles towards the show’s climax in a balanced, spontaneous-appearing jumble. Never dropping a beat or faltering behind as the conflict intensifies, Clayton’s Mother multitasks the whole evening (wouldn’t she just), sparring with her coddling, stay at home husband while trying to finish paperwork for her corporate attorney day job. This is clearly life as her character lives it on a daily basis. Swearingen’s Father, mercurial and flighty, more charming/ conniving in attack, darts around the simple master bedroom periphery, delivering key punches below the belt and passive aggressive swipes with rapid fire sizzle. Clayton does a fine job of showing incrementally where and why her Mother’s Wonder Woman armor cracks a bit, making her character interesting as show’s protagonist. Director Cambra sets her two combatants up, then wisely gets out of the way and lets the pros do their jobs, with easy finesse.
Not going to spoil it, duh. I disliked the final moment in the play, as nothing lay groundwork for it earlier on. Hayley Mills would get all giggly, I’m sure. But you? Get on down to the Addison Conference Center and support theatre on a budget with two engaging, well matched actors giving you your money’s worth and then some.
Seats are $12. Thursday through Sunday. Ends October 1. Dig it?
Tickets available at parents.bpt.me Facebook says.
PHOTOS: Stephanie Marie
1961 film The Parent Trap referenced, with Hayley Mills, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith