Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: UWGB’s ‘Communicating Doors’ plays with time in lively ways


PHOTO: Mariah Himmelwright and Andrew Delaurelle are among the cast in the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s production of “Communicating Doors.” UWGB photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Time travel is quite simple. There’s a door in a posh London hotel where it happens all the time. Just walk through the door, and you can go ahead 20 years or into the past 20 years. The direction depends on who you are. Only one person can travel at a time. And, yes, you can get back from when you came. Confused? Never you mind. Just hang on for the ride. It’s a play, and anything can happen in plays.

Especially playful English playwright Alan Ayckbourn fuels the action in University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance’s production of “Communicating Doors.” Performances of the mind-boggling sci-fi thriller comedy (4 stars out of 5) continue through Saturday, May 3, in University Theatre on campus.


Creative: Playwright – Alan Ayckbourn; director – John Mariano; scenic designer – Jeffrey Paul Entwistle; costume designer – Kaoime E. Malloy; technical director, lighting and sound designer – R. Michael Ingraham; assistant technical director – David Cook; associate sound designer – Tyler Miles; properties designer – Elizabeth Barlament; stage manager – Elizabeth Reineke.

Cast: Conrad Kamschulte (Reece); Kate Akerboom (Jessica); Mariah Himmelwright (Ruella); Andrew Delaurelle (Julian); Stephanie Frank (Poopay); Tyler Miles (Harold).


One highlight is a world-class scream let loose by a key character. She’s a dominatrix (black leather getup and all) who’s talking to a dead wife before the dead wife is dead. The two are trying to figure out how to keep the wife un-dead and change the money-grubbing, cheating, conniving ways of the husband and his deadly associate. The dominatrix comes to a realization that with her participation she’s a prime candidate for killing. YEEEEEEEEEK!!!!!

The cast of director John Mariano is well primed, as usually is the case with a UWGB production. Everybody has a handle on the British accents (one actor speaking such naturally). Some performers play their characters at different ages as time flips between 1978, 1998 (the present of the play) and 2018, so there are changes in hair styles (wigs), clothing styles and what’s happening in society. A time change comes with lighting changes and a shifting of the time-changing room. Alan Ayckbourn (and the creative team) had a whole lot of figuring to put this excursion together.

It takes a while for this piece to unfold, shift, switch time, figure out what’s happening, switch time, convince a person about the time shift and so on. At first, the story seems to be about the dominatrix, Poopay (Stephanie Frank), who has been hired to visit the spacious suite of the Regal Hotel to do something even she hadn’t planned on with a wheezing old man, Reece (Conrad Kamschulte), assisted by his officious aide, Julian (Andrew Delaurelle). But the catalyst character comes from 20 years ago in the form of Reese’s second, and dead, wife, Ruella (Mariah Himmelwright), who knows about Reece’s first dead wife, Jessica (Kate Akerboom). Swept into the plotting to un-dead the dead is the upright hotel security man, Harold (Tyler Miles), who is rightly confused by who’s who and doing what with whom. To think that this is just one of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays – whew – exhausting.

The production comes with music, including the pre-performance soundtrack that has an aura of the “Pink Panther” movies. Music is interjected in some scenes early on, getting in the way of hearing the actors speak but supposedly setting a mood. Then the music pretty much goes away, except for a movie-like burst during an exciting happening. I couldn’t figure out why music was in the body of the play.

The set is a dandy. It spans the full stage, from a balcony window to the audience’s left, to the hall door, to the door to the time-travel space (I’ve got to get me one of those), to the open-walled bathroom, to a bedroom doorway – with furnishings in the middle and geometric moldings all around. The sofa is custom made, as the audience discovers in one of the surprises that surfaces in the sometimes spunky show.

THE VENUE: The 450-seat University Theatre features banked seating and a proscenium (flat front) stage that’s 50 feet across and 23 feet high. (The set for “Communicating Doors” fills the “across” part. The house seats are red, the concrete gray, the ceiling a semi-dark blue, covering ventilating/electrical equipment. Concrete dominates the room – the floor, the walls, the stairs. Theatre Hall and University Theatre inside it are of a 1970s angular functionality style. Other University of Wisconsin System buildings of the era are similarly locked in to the rigid style. It was a mindset of the time.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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