Don’t you love farce? You had better, if you hope to survive the relentless antics packed into this kitchen-sink comedy manqué. Not every character fares so well.
The setup dates back to Molière and beyond: A self-vaunting paragon of virtue – the Caroline of the title, a celebrity TV chef played to the hilt and then some by Caroline Langrishe – has a less savory side. Far from the God-fearing domestic goddess she purports to be, she in fact has a piece on the side (her contractor – so cliché).
Toss in a clueless boor of a husband, an as-yet-undeclared gay son (who for some reason expects Caroline to do his coming out for him), a corrosively competitive kitchen assistant, the hunky handyman and his outraged wife. Sprinkle with a requisite dash of mistaken identity, and voilà! Neatly (too neatly) assembled are all the makings of a classic romp.
If only it were so easy – or if the cast let it come off as if it were. Langrishe’s one-note desperation wears. It’s not cute, though apparently she imagines it to be. Elizabeth Boag alone, as the cuckolded wife, manages to plumb some depth amid the superficial machinations on exhibit here. Oh, and should you miss the import of the gigundo kitchen knife introduced in the opening scene, better brush up on your Chekhov.
The overall result is a tiresome mélange of old tropes and tricks – the kind of trifle Alan Ayckbourn might toss off on an idle afternoon, to more impressive effect. Torben Betts’ script natters and sputters until it erupts in bloodshed – in this case the comedic coup de grâce.