"Taking Steps" is about taking steps. The farce takes place in an old English country home, full of steps. Some of the funniest moments come when the six actors are running up and down and around and around the stairs - which aren't really stairs but lines drawn on the stage - in their efforts to escape from each other.
Then, too, there are the steps Elizabeth takes. She's a dancer. When she gets nervous she tap dances or does her ballet warm-ups.Ultimately the steps that must be taken are life's steps. Elizabeth (played by Karen Nielsen) must decide whether or not to leave her heavy-drinking husband, Roland (Rodger Reynolds). He in turn must decide whether or not to buy the hideous house they live in, for after all, he's a rich man now and rich men should have big houses. And Kitty (Jane Merrell), who doesn't say three words in the entire first half of the play but whom we assume must be thinking something, has to decide whether or not to marry Elizabeth's brother Mark (played by Kit Anderton) and settle down in a fish bait store _ or whether to head back to London and be a party girl.
This may not sound too funny. But actually this play contains some very funny lines. Example: Mark says, "Fishing is like transcendental meditation with an end product."
In fact the only problem with the play is that it's not serious enough. It takes too long to get a handle on the characters and start caring about their struggles. By the second act, when they all seemed more human, they were much funnier.
Gene Pack's character was an exception. Pack played the befuddled "sort of solicitor" Mr. Tristram Watson to perfection. The audience could care about the little man from the first, even though we laughed at him. We felt bad for him when the other men found him inept. We enjoyed the irony of his triumph when he accidentally ended up sleeping with not one, but two women.
("Taking Steps" has a PG-13 kind of plot, with some of the funniest bits revolving around marital infidelity.)
Jon Charlesworth-Adams' character, Leslie, was confusing. As the play progressed we eventually understood what made the others tick. For example, Elizabeth's pride in her strong body led her to use it as an instrument of torture sometimes. And Mark's fatal flaw was that he bored people into slumber when he shared his deepest thoughts.
Even Kitty finally, haltingly, revealed herself near the end.
Leslie, however, never did sort himself out for us. Roland referred to him as a "twit." But Charlesworth-Adams is taller by far than the other actors. Charlesworth-Adams softened his commanding presence with a twittery laugh and a comic gait. And we did laugh at him. Yet he somehow seemed like a capable man acting weird, rather than a weird man trying to act capable. The latter is probably the effect the playwright had in mind.
Special mention should be made of Kit Anderton. He is good at comedy. There was something believable and touching about his portrayal of a guy who just kept on making plans for marriage in spite of the fact that his confetti-covered girl friend didn't seem too interested.
All in all, "Taking Steps" as performed by New Shakespeare Players is an uneven production, but one well worth seeing if you like sophisticated British farce.