TABLE MANNERS at Ross Valley Players needs more of a British touch.

TABLE MANNERS: A Sex Farce by Alan Ayckbourn. Directed by Robert Wilson, Ross Valley Players (RVP), The Barn Theater at the Marin Arts and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. 415/456-9555, or

Through August 14, 2011.

TABLE MANNERS at Ross Valley Players needs more of a British touch.

Thirty-eight years ago at age 34, at the height of the sexual revolution, Alan Ayckbourn wrote The Norman Conquests, a six-character trilogy, taking place over one weekend in different parts of an English estate. Table Manners evolves in the dining room, Living Together in the living room and Round the Garden, the last of the series, in the garden. Last year American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.) produced a lavish production of Round the Garden and the Shotgun Players did the whole shebang. As an end to their very successful 81st season, Ross Valley Players (RVP) has followed the axiom of “send them out laughing” and they do that with this production of Table Manners.

Ayckbourn is a master of situation comedy and a chronicler of middle and upper-middle cast Brits. In all his plays his dialog invests each character with an individual basic shell and scene by scene fills in their qualities/foibles/weaknesses to make each of them complete as they physically and emotionally connect with at least one other character. The six characters include the couples Norman (Joseph Hoeber), his wife Ruth (Robyn Wiley), her brother Reg (Robin Schild) and his wife Sarah (Pamela Ciochetti). The unattached ones are neighbor veterinarian Tom (Chris Hammond) with eyes for Annie (Monique Sims) who is the caretaker for the unseen mother residing upstairs off stage.

Librarians are not noted for their sexual prowess and this bit of knowledge is not lost on Ayckbourn the sly, witty master of innuendo. Librarian Norman is the exuberant over-sexed protagonists who attempts to seduce Annie, unbeknown to the others, they are going to engage in a weekend tryst. Hen-pecked brother Reg and his controlling wife Sarah are going to spend the weekend taking care of the invalid mother while Annie is away.

It is truly an ensemble performance and after an early scene filled with exposition, Ayckbourn’s writing kicks in and scene after scene is hilarious and at the same time satiric adding a touch of pathos to the humor earning many laughs. It is the rapid fire banter that keeps the play interesting and this is well directed by the talented Robert Wilson. The British accents by all the cast are best described as mid-Atlantic but are very acceptable for a community theater production.

Joseph Hoeber gives a polished performance to match Pamela Ciochetti’s no nonsense, take charge acting defining the character of Sarah. Robin Schild almost makes the uxorious Reg believable while Christopher Hammond turns in a fine performance as the unassuming, reluctant would be lover matching the antipathy of Monique Sims’ interpretation of Annie. In this part of the trilogy Ruth’s role is not well defined and Robyn Wiley makes the most of it.

David Apple’s marvelous (again) set is so realistic you would swear that you can even see the worm holes in the wood. Running time about 2 hours with intermission.

Robin Taylor/Kedar K. Adour, MD