Frayn the farceur returns here, but the humor is so airy that at times it disappears altogether.
Skios is a Greek island to which each year a world-renowned speaker is invited to enlighten a world-class audience of high-paying guests at the Fred Toppler lecture, one of the highlights of the Greek cultural calendar. This year the Fred Toppler Foundation has invited Dr. Norman Wilfred, a scientist who will speak on the scientific organization of science, a subject so rarefied that it’s questionable if even he understands it. Coming to the island at the same time is Oliver Fox, a celebrity with a tousled mop of blond hair and a mischievous streak a mile wide. Fox’s reason for the journey to Skios is more mundane than Wilfred’s—he’s planning to meet Georgie, an attractive woman he’d met at a bar and impulsively invited to spend some time with at a villa owned by people he barely knows. On arriving at the airport, Fox responds to the ubiquitous signs held by those providing transportation by impulsively pretending to be Dr. Wilfred. He’s whisked off to the lush grounds of the Foundation to be greeted by Nikki Hook, personal aide to Mrs. Fred Toppler. Nikki finds herself unexpectedly attracted to Fox, whom she expected would be a rather dowdy middle-age scientist—as the “real” Wilfred is. Meanwhile, through a misunderstanding tied to the garbled English of a local taxi driver—in exasperation he winds up responding to the name “Phoksoliva,” an inversion he doesn’t comprehend—Dr. Wilfred ends up at the villa with the attractive Georgie, who has a propensity for nude sunbathing that Wilfred quite likes.
From this extraordinarily thin plot device of mixed and mistaken identities Frayn spins out a gauzy tale that exhibits more tedium than hilarity.