SEPTEMBER 14, 1998 VOL. 152 NO. 11

Communicating Doors Alan Ayckbourn By RICHARD ZOGLIN

Poor Ayckbourn. The British playwright has turned out a string of increasingly dark, provocative comedies. Yet the few U.S. productions of his work tend to reinforce his outdated reputation as the British Neil Simon. Yes, Communicating Doors, now on display in a sprightly off-Broadway staging, is a relatively playful piece. A hooker (Mary-Louise Parker) gets called in to service an old geezer, who promptly confesses that he had his first two wives killed. She flees into a closet, doors spin, and we are transported to the same room 20 years earlier--then 20 years before that. The time-travel gimmick is fun but hardly frivolous: the play explores matters of fate and free will, and the ability of people to control their own destiny. A clever and finally quite moving work. --By Richard Zoglin