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Ayckbourn's 'Norman Conquests' released on DVD

Posted by Don Aucoin  March 11, 2011 01:03 PM

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If you liked the Zeitgeist Stage Company's current production of Alan Ayckbourn's "My Wonderful Day'' (running through March 26 at the Black Box Theatre in the Boston Center for the Arts), you may want to check out the newly-released DVD of the sex farce that is considered Ayckbourn's masterwork: "The Norman Conquests.''

Originally broadcast in 1978 as part of PBS's "Great Performances'' series, "The Norman Conquests'' (Acorn Media, www.acornonline.com) stars the great Tom Conti as Norman, a shaggy, improbable Lothario whose attempted infidelities are repeatedly thwarted during a weekend with his in-laws at a country house.

"Conquests'' consists of a trio of interlocking comedies in which the same events are seen from three different perspectives: "Table Manners,'' "Living Together,'' and "Round and Round the Garden.''

It's a feast of British comic acting. Along with Conti (who just two years earlier had made his name in "The Glittering Prizes''), the cast includes Penelope Keith, Richard Briers, Penelope Wilton, Fiona Walker, and David Troughton as the most inept suitor of all time. Troughton pulls off the not-easy trick of making utter obtuseness utterly hilarious, much as Patrick Warburton did (though in a different style) with his portrayal of Puddy on "Seinfeld.''

I didn't see the acclaimed 2009 Broadway revival of "The Norman Conquests,'' but it's hard to imagine anyone doing fuller justice to Ayckbourn's trilogy than Conti & Co.

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