NATURE ABHORS A VACUUM
On a day when my wife and I were being stupidly snarly with each other, our miasma was interrupted by the appearance of a vacuum cleaner salesman on our front porch. Desperate for diversion (and credulously believing that I’d get a free set of steak knives after a ten-minute demonstration) I invited him in and things started to go wrong almost immediately when he ripped the ass out of his pants while bending over to plug in his machine. It was two hours before his boss returned in the van to pick him up and in that time I got the story of his life and a sobering glimpse into just how hard life could be to a thoroughly decent and likeable man. I had recently sketched out a scene between a bickering husband and wife who were sneaking up on the idea of divorce but I didn’t know what to do with it; where it could go that would be worth developing. The next thing I knew, I was starting a second scene with the arrival of a vacuum cleaner salesman on their front porch. - Herman Goodden
“A dig at London’s downtown, some amusing insights into religion, a poignant portrait of a door-to-door seller and some genuine wisdom about marriage. London writer Herman Goodden has wrapped all that and more into his play Nature Abhors a Vacuum which opened Wednesday night at the McManus Theatre. Though this warm hearted comedy about marital difficulty is filled with comic zingers, Nature Abhors a Vacuum is a gentle piece well suited to the suburban sensibility of the Forest City. Where else would it seem believable that spurned lovers end up babysitting their bedmates’ kids? The plot revolves around a couple (Jeff Culbert and Julia Webb) trying to navigate through a recent separation.
“As Laura tries to get her bearings, she reluctantly invites a vacuum-cleaner vendor named Tom (Phi Bulani) into her house and, ultimately, her bed. As a man resigned to living with lowered expectations, Bulani is superb. He brings a poignant brand of nervous bluster to this portrait of a virgin who has drifted into a lousy job but retained his dignity. Whether commenting on the homogenization of some religions (‘If you’re just after lessons in caring and sharing, then you can read the Berenstein Bears’) or feminism (‘it’s like they expect to be fulfilled and to be happy and to be well paid and to be appreciated . . . Where did they get such wacky ideas?’) or pointing out that the bedroom is the dirtiest room in the house (‘People just sort of flake away in their sleep’) Tom is a memorable creation . . . The messages about marriage though not new – are worth hearing. Especially when they’re this entertaining.”
- Ian Gillespie, London Free Press
“There is a difficulty having me review Nature Abhors a Vacuum now playing at the McManus Studio of the Grand Theatre until March 30th. First, I am a lawyer, totally inexperienced in the art of play reviewing. The use of the appropriate number of stars or the determination of which direction to point one’s thumbs is quite elusive. The second potential problem is that the playwright, Herman Goodden is a friend. Reviewing a friend’s play strikes me as a good way to lose friends. Fortunately, Nature Abhors a Vacuum provides a way around both these difficulties. Good theatre in my opinion should do at least one of two things; be thought-provoking and / or be entertaining. Mr. Goodden has managed to achieve both.
“Frank and Laura Conway (played by Jeff Culbert and Julia Webb) have been separated for four months and continue to be dealing with the emotional turmoil and confusion which accompanies decisions to end marriages. The dialogue is not only humorous, but as a lawyer who has often represented divorcing couples, I can attest that it is also very real. Neither of the separated spouses have yet accepted the finality of their decision, and their ability to do so is confounded by the inevitable existence of third parties. ‘Fifi’ (played by Teresa Lynn Diehl) and an often hilarious vacuum cleaner salesman (Phi Bulani). Each of these characters brings to the married couple a much needed dose of reality, although not necessarily with that intention in mind.
“Nature would not abhor this production, as there are no vacuums. It moves at a delightful pace and is continuously entertaining. The actors clearly understand their roles and are very credible in bringing to life not only the problems of divorce, but the stress involved in making a life for oneself in today’s difficult economic times. It is an intimate play which is well suited to the cozy atmosphere provided by the McManus Studio.”
- Gordon Cudmore, Scene
Nature Abhors a Vacuum, “A Modern Comedy about the New Depression, Marital Strife and Vacuum Cleaner Sales” was first produced at the McManus Studio of London, Ontario’s Grand Theatre from March 18 to 30, 1996. The show was directed by John Gerry and starred Jeff Culbert as Frank, Julia Webb as Laura, Phi Bulani as Tom Gross and Teresa Lynn Diehl as Fiona. The stage manager was Cathy Bryant with lighting by Karen Crichton and music by Andrew Petrasiunas.