There is something fetching about a young playwright – Evan Smith of Savannah, Georgia – so immersed in Victorian England through his burrowing into Dickens, Trollope, et al. as to come up with a highly accomplished pastiche. But pastiche The Uneasy Chair is, a genre hard to sustain over a full evening.
We have here Miss Amelia Pickles, a fussy landlady who reluctantly rents lodgings to Captain Josiah Wickett, retired (their names incorporate the two halves of Pickwick), and what starts as mutual mistrust develops into guarded esteem. But she has a niece and he a nephew who conduct an abortive affair, which also begets a misunderstanding that induces Amelia’s breach-of-promise suit against Josiah. He, rather than pay damages, embarks on a reciprocally damaging marriage with the plaintiff. Over a quarter-century they proceed to torment each other, voicing their private thoughts out loud at the audience, another palling device, as is an actor playing numerous minor roles.
There are staunch performances from Dana Ivey, Roger Rees, and Haviland Morris, and somewhat lesser ones from Paul Fitzgerald and Michael Arkin (not all Arkins are kin). There are good production values, and Richard Cottrell’s staging, though often deliciously droll, is, like the rest, excessive.