Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight

Peter Ackerman
Soho Theatre
(2002)

There is a real current vogue for plays about voyeuristic sex. This play follows Frantic Assembly's Peepshow at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith which we recently reviewed and has a very similar subject matter. It would also be easy to name half-a-dozen other plays addressing similar issues not to mention numerous films and television shows.

It is therefore incumbent upon a playwright using such well-worn material to provide a rich seam of originality to shed a new light upon it. While Ackerman is often humorous, his characters tend to be unoriginal and much of the dialogue is predictable.

Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight has already been a great success in New York, playing off-Broadway for a six-month run. It is excellently directed by Abigail Morris who makes much use of the design skills of Laura Hopkins' which eventually lead to the playing out of simultaneous scenes in three separate bedrooms.

The play starts with a bang - literally, as the hillbilly Nancy and Jewish Ben almost make it to a shuddering climax. They are suddenly divided by her passionate but unfortunately offensive cry at the critical moment. Their happy relationship instantly dissolves into disastrous bickering over gender, religion and upbringing.

Grace, the only fully developed character (very well played by Anna Francolini), has a much simpler outlook. She just wants to have sex with her hit man lover, Gene. In a nice gender and role reversal, he would much prefer to chat about life. This is one of Ackerman's clever little comic touches and works extremely well.

The third couple are therapist Mark and his geriatric lover, Mr Abramson.

The whimpering Nancy throws herself on the far more feisty Grace in the hope of sympathy and a solution to her love problem. She gets far more than she bargained for as she ends up in a very funny three-way telephone therapy session with Ben. This has many comic possibilities and Ackerman milks it for all that it is worth.

The ending of this fairy-tale is inevitable as all three couples live (and copulate) happily ever after.

The comedy is light and undemanding with a tendency to drift towards cliché. As this is the basis on which so much successful TV relies, this may be no bad thing.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher