Anne Bogart turns Virginia Woolf's minor farce into an evening of crude inanity.
Moreover, what was obviously just a playlet has been padded with all sorts of extraneous unfunny business in order to stretch out the evening's "entertainment" to an hour. Indeed, it takes 10 minutes for the maid Mary Magdalen (Akiko Aizawa, looking alternately flirtatious and fierce) to conduct a head count of the audience, twice. Meanwhile, the unseen players -- judging from the aural evidence -- fend off buzzing flies and exhort one another to get ready.
After an amuse-bouche of a music hall song ("All the nice girls love a sailor"), the curtain finally parts to reveal Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (a stentorian Ellen Lauren) sponge-shampooing her husband, the philosopher Charles Hay Cameron (Tom Nelis), in preparation for a trip for India. All they're awaiting is the delivery of their coffins; fearing the predatory nature of ants, Mrs. Cameron won't set forth without a secure resting place.
Sharing the drawing room -- turned into a sort of human-scale terrarium by set designer James Schuette's grass-green strokes -- are the painter George Frederick Watts (Barney O'Hanlon), his child-bride muse Ellen Terry (Kelly Maurer, rather older than the role calls for), and the exalted poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (Stephen Duff Webber). Tennyson also has the hots for the "beautiful wench" -- he tries to entice her by boasting that he has "thighs like alabaster" -- but he's mostly enamored of his own deathless prose.
Meanwhile, the closest thing to an actual plotline is Terry's mounting impatience with the deadly-dull circle among which she finds herself entrenched. But it's pretty much impossible not to interpolate into the ingenue's disillusionment the specter of Woolf's own ultimately fatal ennui.
In the end, a production that honored Woolf's actual comedic accomplishment without burying it in over-the-top clowning would make for a more appropriate -- not to mention more enjoyable -- homage than this one.