Misunderstandings and tantrums abound when the four members of the self-absorbed Bliss family each invite a guest for the weekend. Coward’s beloved play is a delightful mix of high farce and comedy of manners.
Performances of “Hay Fever” are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20-23 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 24, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Sirote Theatre. Admission is $12 and $15; student tickets are $6. Tickets for UAB employees and senior citizens are $10. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org. Visit Theatre UAB online at www.uab.edu/cas/theatre.
“Hay Fever” was written in 1925, during a frivolous period of excess and denial nestled into a 10-year period between the horrors of World War I and the crushing economic realities of the Great Depression. Known as The Jazz Age, it was characterized by an opening up of social constraints, especially regarding the freedoms of women. Swinging music, wild parties, the dropping of traditional etiquette, living for the moment and blatant displays of social irreverence were commonplace in a period that used unselfconscious excess to blot out the atrocities of “The Great War,” says “Hay Fever” director Dennis McLernon.
The Bliss family is composed of matriarch Judith, a recently retired and publicly acclaimed stage actress; David, her husband, a well-known novelist; Simon, their son, an incorrigible and budding artist; and Sorel, their daughter, striving to rise above her bohemian family but always ready to play the game whenever it presents itself. Coward explored the traditions of family life and the social masks that accompany them and turned them upside down in “Hay Fever.”
“In highlighting the chaotic nature of the Bliss family, Coward incorporated the classic cornerstones of comedy: social disorder, incongruity, physical humor, witty dialogue, sexual innuendo, cross purposes and situational reversals,” McLernon said.
To bring this all to life, he constructed a very simple plot structure: Each member of the family has invited a guest up for the weekend, without informing the other members of the family. This immediately generates hurt feelings, over-dramatic reactions and raucous conflict, all of which the Bliss family appear to thrive upon.
The cast is Clara Holmes of Grand Blanc, Michigan, as Judith; Brett Everingham of Atlanta as Simon; Rachel Biggs of Lubbock, Texas, as Sorel; Evan Wilson of Homewood as David; Anna Whitlock of Alabaster as Clara; Marissa Hebson of Pinson as Myra; David Parker of Birmingham as Richard; Tanier Dutton of Carbon Hill, Alabama, as Sandy; and Anna Frey of Oneonta, Alabama, as Jackie.
The crew includes Travis Roddy and Dustin Green, scenery construction; Rita Pearson-Daley, Anna Whitlock, Allie Nichols and Tess Lenzen, properties construction; Gabriella Henry, scenery/properties running; Diamond Crason and Anna Stewart, wardrobe; Katie Strickland and Dustin Green, lighting; Austin Helmers, light board operation; and Marissa Hilton, audio board operation. Stage management is by Tyler Stidham with assistant stage managers Rachel-Marie Strazza and Kaylee Radney. Marlene Johnson is vocal and text coach; Ed Zuckerman is scenic designer; Marc Quattlebaum is properties master; Elena Brooks is costume designer; Spencer Webb is lighting designer; and Sean Doyle is sound designer.