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Living Together - Review

Living, Drinking and Laughing in the Living Room

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


The Norman Conquests, Broadway, Living Together

Stephen Mangan

Stephen Mangan

You wouldn’t want to live with the dysfunctional family members playwright Alan Ayckbourn created in Living Together, but they sure are fun to watch.

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What This Show Is About

Living Together is from The Norman Conquests, a three-play set from British playwright Ayckbourn. Just as with the other shows, Table Manners and Round and Round the Garden, the play takes place over one weekend at an English country house.

Annie, Ruth and Reg are the adult children of a disastrous mother. We never meet the mom, whose hypochondria has left her bedridden and whose disappointment in life has made emotional invalids of her kids. Sarah, Reg’s wife, would like to whip things into shape. Tom, a country vet, likes Annie but can’t screw up the courage to do anything about it. And Norman, Ruth’s husband, is desperately unhappy himself but truly wants to be happy and to make the women in his life happy.

Each of the three plays takes place simultaneously in time in different places in the home. Norman has come to take Annie away for a romantic weekend. Sarah comes to help out with “mum” and give Annie a break but finds out about the tryst and calls Ruth.

Things go hilariously downhill from there.

What You’ll Like About ‘Living Together’

As a reviewer, you run understandably low on words to describe what amounts to the same story told three times. Fortunately for theatergoers, Ayckbourn, director Matthew Warchus and an outstanding cast have no such problem.

This is a revival of The Norman Conquests originally mounted in London by the Old Vic. The entire cast and creative team came to Broadway with it.

Each play stands completely on its own, but each play is made richer by having seen one or both of the others. As you see more of the production, you not only understand better what is going on, you also understand the characters better. It’s a tribute to Aychbourn’s writing but just as much to the actors that you enjoy The Norman Conquests more the more you see of them.

The emotions are real, the situations are exaggerated (but never to the point of farce), and the laughter is non-stop.

Who’s Who and What’s What

In each of the three plays, sets of performers seem to shine. In Table Manners, it was Ben Miles, as the emotionally bumbling vet, Tom; Jessica Hynes as Annie; and Amanda Root as the repressed, angry Sarah. Amelia Bullmore as Ruth and Stephen Mangan as Norman take center stage in Round and Round the Garden. And it’s Reg’s turn in Living Together.

Where and When

  • Cricle in the Square
    235 West 50th Street
  • Show Times and Tickets
  • Previews: April 8, 2009
  • Opening: April 23, 2009
  • Closing: July 25, 2009
  • Run Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (with intermission)
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Advisories: None
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