“Ominously funny” is how Paragon Theatre Company describes the regional premier of Jezz Butterworth’s “Parlour Song,” the fourth of his dark comedies the company has produced over the years — and perhaps the most accessible. It offers a showcase for the company’s excellent actors Michael Stricker, Warren Sherrill and Emily Paton Davies, which is reason enough to purchase tickets.
As lights go up, demolition expert Ned (Sherrill) is showing videos of buildings collapsing — almost in a dance-like sequence. He’s losing his possessions one by one, almost like the buildings fall piece by piece on his films.
His neighbor Dale (Stricker) wryly comments that he’s seen these examples of Ned’s work before, suggesting that it’s time to move off dead center — something the out-of-shape, depressed Ned knows he needs to do. Dale is a wise head with some sharply comic lines, which Sherrill rolls off effortlessly.
Planned exercise sessions follow as well as a tape on sexual skills, as poor Ned tries to connect with his distant wife Joy (Davies).
It’s natural to recognize Butterworth’s connection to famous British playwright Harold Pinter, whose wry observations on contemporary society also leave his characters with issues unresolved. Butterworth is a bit funnier in this play although one knows things are not going to work out well.
The set — three rooflines, with white picket fences on each side, closing them in, represent one house — a conventional suburban one belonging to Ned and Joy, with the fence suggesting that it closes them in. And into a marriage that isn’t working.
Bouncy Dale isn’t put off by the fence and resembles a talkative neighbor one may have known.
Butterworth’s script is literate and challenging as are his earlier ones. The English accents are easily understood, clearly consistent.
See this to enjoy what a skilled company can do with interesting language.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29 at1387 Santa Fe Drive, Denver. (Kim Robards Dance). Tickets; (2 for 1 on Thursdays) 303-300-2210, ww.paragontheatre.org.
Exciting news: Paragon will move to a new home to start its 2012 season at 2810 Larimer St. in the fast-growing RiNo arts district. They boast about “comfortable auditorium seating, air conditioning, gated private parking and terrific acoustics.” Watch for further announcements: www.paragontheatre.org.