Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Black Comedy

West End Productions
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Carla's review of Ken Ludwig's Leading Ladies

The Cast
Photo by Russell Maynor
What a gas. Black Comedy is surprisingly light fare coming from the British playwright who gave us Equus and Amadeus. While this 1965 farcical blast is full of laughs, it does come with a bitter lesson on the pains of dishonesty. Oh, what wicked webs we weave. All hell is upended when our main character, budding sculptor Brindsley Miller (Weston Simons), reaches for success and love while believing he needs to deceive nearly everyone in order to achieve his aims.

It all happens in the dark during a blackout. So how do you present a play that is mostly in the dark? By making light dark and dark light. The story opens in Brindsley's apartment (in the dark for the audience, which is light for the characters), until a power failure turns everything black (which becomes light for the audience). When a character lights a match, the lights are dimmed to indicate partial light. This works very well. The lighting changes must certainly keep lighting designer Riley Lewis on his toes.

Brindsley is in a fix. He and his fiancée Carol Melkett (Rikki Carroll) are waiting for a rich art patron, Georg Bamberger (Bradd Howard), to come by the apartment to see Brindsley's work on the same evening he is expecting to meet his future father-in-law, Colonel Melkett (Rick Huff). In order make a good impression, Brindsley has borrowed, without permission, classy furniture from his neighbor Harold Gorringe (Kenneth Ansloan), who is away for the weekend.

Of course, everything goes wrong. The blackout brings Brindsley's neighbor Miss Furnival (Margie Maes) over for a visit. She's a nondrinker who mistakenly drinks because it's dark and she picks the wrong bottle. She loves getting snockered, but she also begins to recognize some of Harold's furnishings in the moments when matches are lit. And, of course, Harold comes home early and visits Brindsley's apartment because of the blackout. Carol's father arrives in the middle of it all. Brindsley struggles to keep things under control, trying to slip Harold's furnishings back in the dark. And just as things are going impossibly awry, Brindsley gets a surprise visitor who takes a mad situation and escalates the pressure—and the humor—tenfold.

Director Colleen Neary McClure, founder of West End Productions, drives the humor high by keeping the timing and the tension tight. Much of the action is played out with exquisite precision as Brindsley scrambles to keep the horrible situation from becoming even more devastating, sneaking in the dark around the characters with Harold's furnishings. It requires a decent amount of dexterous athleticism from Simmons.

Neary McClure has made excellent choices in casting. All eight actors deliver well. Simmons is terrific as the too-clever-by-half Brindsley. Carroll is lovely as the naive-but-game Carol. Huff is wonderful as Carol's persnickety father, and Ansloan is perfect as the fussy Harold, likewise with Maes as the ditzy Miss Furnival. The always wonderful Jessica Osbourne is just super as the surprise arrival who explodes everything.

Shows from West End Productions are always well worth the visit, whether the British plays are comedies, traditional drama, or out-there drama. Black Comedy is yet another lovely feather in Neary McClure's multi-colored cap.

Black Comedy runs through February 9, 2020, at West End Productions, VSA North Fourth Art Center, 4904 4th St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:00 pm on Sundays. General admission is $25. Online advance purchase is $22. Discounted admission is $22 for ATG members, students, and seniors (62+). Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 410-8524.