Table Manners-British Fun at RVP

Left to right, Monique Sims as Annie, Robyn Wiley as Ruth and Joseph Hoeber as Norman ham it up in the dining room. Photo courtesy of Robin Jackson.

Ross Valley Players ends its 81st season with Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn. This tightly written comedy was originally on Broadway in 1975 and revived there by the Old Vic in 2008 when it won the Tony for Best Revival.  Table Manners is the first play in Ayckbourn's trilogy, The Norman Conquests but each play stands on its own.  The Norman of the title is a compulsive womanizer (Joseph Hoeber).  He means no harm. He just wants to make women happy--be they married or unmarried, it makes no difference to him.  He is married to the ostentatiously near-sighted Ruth (Robyn Wiley).  Ruth is the sister of Reg (Robin Schild) and Annie (Monique Sims).  

Three couples are involved on this particular July weekend in a Victorian house not far from London in 1973. They are all related either by blood or marriage except for Tom, the veterinarian (Christopher Hammond).  Table Manners introduces us to the characters--the overworked Annie, the unmarried daughter of the family who cares for her ill, but never seen mother who lies bedridden upstairs. Annie has been involved for about ten years with Tom, a shy veterinarian. He cannot bring himself to pop the question and prefers the company of his four legged friends.  Reg, Annie's brother is a real estate agent who is very involved with his work. He is married to the stern, moralistic Sarah (Pamela Ciochetti) who continually sets about preserving order and preventing much fun from taking place, like seeing that Annie does not go off on a clandestine weekend with Norman.  Then there is Norman himself, an assistant librarian, somewhat silly, but possessing an irresistible charm.  

Director Robert Wilson directs all of the proceedings with a great deal of humor.  Associate Director Judy Holmes, being British-born, coached the cast with impeccable British accents.  Both brought out wonderful performances from the talented cast. Monique Sims stands out as a frowsy and brusque Annie and blossoms into a real beauty.  Pamela Ciochetti is a thin lipped controlling Sarah, Robin Schild is a passive and clownish Reg, Christopher Hammond is a slow thinking and stoical Tom, Robyn Wiley is a brittle and near-sighted Ruth but Joseph Hoeber steals the show in a clownish and magnetic performance as Norman.

Set Designer David Apple built the charming set, a replica of an aging British country house. Michael A. Berg designed the very appropriate costumes.

Cheers to Robert Wilson and Judy Holmes and their talented cast for making Table Manners so much fun for us to enjoy!  

Table Manners continues through August 14 at Ross Valley Players, Barn Theatre, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA.  Thursday performances are at 7:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 415-456-9555 or go online at

Flora Lynn Isaacson