Sexy Laundry review at Tabard Theatre, London – ‘uninspired marital comedy’
Playwright Michele Riml is popular in Canada, where her plays have achieved critical acclaim and commercial success. Her 2003 short play Sexy Laundry continues to run in productions in both her home country and the USA, but this is its UK premiere.
Henry and Alice are stuck in a sexual rut following 25 years of marriage. Alice feels that they have stopped communicating their needs to one another and hopes that a weekend in an upmarket hotel might rekindle their relationship.
Despite its universal themes, Riml’s play suffers from an identity crisis. On one level it’s a situation comedy, stuffed full of familiar clichés about midlife crises. The tone lurches suddenly towards genuine drama but this soon passes in favour of cheap laughs and finally ends with a touch of sentiment.
Phoebe Barran’s production fails to pull off these gear changes with any real subtlety, but that’s in part a result of the writing. It ends up feeling like the first act of a very weak Whitehall farce.
Felicity Duncan and Nick Raggett have chemistry but it’s a genuine struggle to make either character believable.
In her favour, Riml doesn’t apportion blame to either party for the breakdown in their marriage, but that doesn’t excuse such thin writing. Apparently Riml has written a sequel to this play. In a way this makes sense – it desperately needs a second act.