In the spirit of Oscar Wilde’s farcical portrayals of human nature in plays such as “The Importance of Being Earnest,” the Santa Barbara City College Theater group’s newest production, “Taking Steps,” attempts a low brow imitation of his thematic style. Like “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Taking Steps” is a commentary on the commonness of people misunderstanding each other, showing the ridiculous nature of ourselves to ourselves. Observing over 60 audience members rolling in the aisles, the play proves to be unpredictable and witty in its execution.
The premise of “Taking Steps” is a group of six characters that realize their interconnectedness as the truth is slowly revealed. They consistently misunderstand each other due to their habitual self-centeredness, which is the main attribute that they all share.
“Taking Steps” portrays different types of clashing personalities. Intended to take place in modern times, the play exposes the way that people negatively interact with each other in a positive light. About half of the play takes place with three men all wearing identical pajamas. One of the characters is a raging alcoholic who drinks buckets of scotch and never seems to be phased by it until the moment that he learns that his wife has left him. Then there are the two characters who have these bizarre speech patterns and who are next to impossible to understand.
The only characters that can relate to each other and treat each other kindly are those with strange speech patterns, played by Edward Lee and Melissa Webb. They are also the most endearing characters that induce the audience’s sympathy. Roland, played by Jon Koons, is the character whose wife attempts to leave him. Mark (Everett Moore) and Tristram (Edward Lee) contribute to the physical comedy that arises out of Roland’s alcoholism.
Alan Aykburn’s set utilizes three floors of a Victorian style house. This set results in the characters going up and down the stairs rather frequently, with the effect of having many characters on the stage at the same time unaware of each other’s presence. The comedy of the situations that arise is based primarily on the fact that everybody has their own agenda, and the audience can see each character’s plans being hatched simultaneously.
Irony and comedy join together as certain characters spend the evening in the same house without ever meeting each other, and ultimately the most unassuming character is the one that becomes the most depended upon. “Taking Steps” is decidedly not self-conscious in its essence, nor is it very thought provoking, but is nevertheless enjoyable to see.
“Taking Steps” runs through May 12. Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Studio Theatre at Santa Barbara City College’s West Campus. $14 – $16, general; discounts for students. For tickets and information, call 965-5935.