Despite all of its faults, reality television does suggest at least one intriguing aspect of human nature: Given enough attention, we all have the potential to be insufferably egotistical exhibitionists. Such behavior didn't originate with Jersey Shore, however, as humans have long been willing to use histrionics to draw audiences. For one wittily observed case in point, the Guthrie Theater is presenting its debut staging of Noël Coward's Hay Fever. Set in an English country house during the 1920s, the play revolves around the patently peculiar Bliss family, an artistically affected group whose every interaction is a performance. Like today's reality stars, the Blisses are stunningly oblivious to (or perhaps subconsciously gratified by) just how bizarre their behavior appears to the world at large. Invited into the family's bubble for a weekend sojourn is a hapless group of house guests fated to have their nerves thoroughly frayed by the family's unrelenting eccentricities. Onstage discomfort, of course, is an enduring source of amusement, especially when the roles are entrusted to a compelling cast, including Harriet Harris as Judith Bliss, the indomitably delusional family matriarch. Mischievously conveyed through Coward's heavily stylized dialogue, the work is a farcical comedy of manners that transcends its era thanks to a knowing grasp of narcissistic lunacy. If all the world's a stage, Hay Fever exposes the melodramatic buffoonery we bring to our roles. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 1 p.m.; Sun., March 25, 1 p.m.; Sun., April 1, 1 p.m.; Sun., April 15, 1 p.m.; Sun., April 22, 1 p.m. Starts: March 10. Continues through April 22, 2012
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