By John Van de Ven

Hay Fever, the latest offering from BAT Theatre, takes the audience on a bizarrely funny weekend with the eccentric Bliss family. Hay Fever offers offbeat humor that keeps ramping up as the Bliss’ weekend unravels, and the guests become increasingly more uncomfortable. I absolutely loved this show and plan to see it again before the run is over. The dry British humor is still intact and it fits well with the Bainbridge setting.

This is the last weekend for performances, on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. with the finalé on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m.

The show opens very nonchalantly with the two Bliss siblings, Sorel and Simon, conversing with each other. Surprising each other, it is revealed that they each invited someone over for the weekend, Richard Greatham as Sorel’s guest and Myra Arundell as Simon’s guest. They both admit to being infatuated by their guests.

Eventually, they are joined by their mother, Judith Bliss, who greets them with the names of the flowers she is currently trying to learn. After some discussion, Sorel and Simon discover that Judith also invited someone to stay for the weekend, Sandy Tyrell, a big fan of her work.

Simon informs Judith that Myra will be staying for the weekend; she becomes upset. Judith protests saying that she detests Myra; not only is she too old for her son, but she dislikes how Myra uses sex like a “shrimping net.”

As Judith, Simon, and Sorel argue, they are joined by their father, David Bliss, who wonders what all the commotion is about. After a few snide remarks, David states that he wishes not to be disturbed and that he is expecting a guest for the weekend.

After David leaves, Judith reveals her plans to come out of retirement and return to acting, stating that she is stagnating. Simon and Sorel are excited and agree to help her in her return to the stage.

As each guest arrives, their relationship with the Bliss family is revealed. Later that evening, after the guests have settled in, an argument erupts during a round of games.

It’s hard to describe the rest of the show, but what follows can only be described as a sort of Monty Python-esque fever dream. As each member of the Bliss family descends into absurdity, their guests wonder why they were even invited in the first place. In the days that follow, the guests become more and more drawn into the Bliss family insanity.

Written by English playwright Noël Coward in 1924, the Bliss family provides the archetype to other quirky but lovable families, from The Addams Family and The Beverly Hillbillies to Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums.

Rachel Rene (Zoom director) has done an awesome job putting together a very entertaining production. Rene took the time to adapt the original play from its original British setting to one set on Bainbridge Island, giving it local appeal and making it feel more modern.

REVIEW: BAT Theatre's 'Hay Fever' offers offbeat humor that keeps ramping up 1The chemistry between the cast is superb; Olivia Kridle (as Sorel Bliss), Kassey Castro (as Simon Bliss), Steph Sola (as Judith Bliss), and Rex Waters (as David Bliss) feel like a family, especially when they bicker between each other. Aaron Ussery (as Sandy Tyrell), Sara Schweid (as Myra Arundell), Adrian Cerrato (as Richard Greatham), and Hannah Kathline (as Jackie Coryton) are all outstanding as the beleaguered guests of the Bliss family, and Noelle Mestres (as Clara) plays the sarcastic maid.

So, if self-isolation and social distancing have taken their toll on you, I would highly encourage you to spend an evening with the Bliss family and their guests. It might remind you of just how exhausting it is dealing with other people and return you to your senses.

As a final note, I’d like to add that social distancing and self-isolation are very difficult things for all of us to endure. We are social beings and need plenty of healthy interaction with one another. BAT Theatre productions don’t just offer its audience a fully produced show but also provide a community for like-minded fans of theater. Make sure you stick around after the show to have a chance at participating in a Q and A with the cast and production crew.

Hay Fever is a weirdly hilarious BAT Theatre production, so make sure not to miss this one. There are just two more opportunities to catch Hay Fever this Saturday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. For more information on Hay Fever and the donation link, please click here. This is a pay-what-you-will production.

Because this is a different format than most will be familiar with, I will add a few tips to maximize your viewing pleasure:

    • Take advantage of waiting the half-hour before the show starts to allow ample time to adjust your settings.
    • Make sure to mute your mic and turn off your webcam if you have one.
    • Make sure that the button in the upper right of your screen is set to “Gallery View.”
    • Pour your favorite beverage, sit back, and relax.

While this second season of Shelter-in-Place is not the same as going to see an actual BAT Theatre show, it does offer a number of comforts to the alternative. Snacks and drinks are only limited to what you have at home, clothing is optional, as long as you avoid using your webcam, and you get social distancing approved live theater!

A full list of this season’s productions, along with donation links, can be found at

https://battheatre.org/shows/shelter-in-place-season-2020/shelter-in-place-season-2-2020

The BAT Theatre has been performing shows in the Puget Sound area for over 40 years. It is a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity that relies heavily on ticket revenue, donations, and volunteer help.