Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, June, 1999
The title says it all. This 1960’s British farce is broad and silly. It is an old war-horse of a farce, mumbling polite British apologies as it stumbles through more mistaken identities and chances for people to appear in their underwear than seems humanly possible. And the Theater Barn is playing it for all its worth.
If you like broad farce, and many people in the audience I sat among did, then this is the show for you. Doors slam, inuendos fly, and fun is made of hetero- and homosexual practices. And all this because a taxi driver named John Smith is trying to conceal his bigamy from both of his wives.
As farces go, you can see this one coming a mile off. Subtle it is not. But it ran for many, many seasons in London, was made into a film in 1966, and has been a staple of community theatre and summer stock for decades. Its just good silly fun.
The Theater Barn has assembled a cast of real grown-up actors to do this show, and director Michael Marotta moves then through their smoothly timed paces well. Jay Ennis has designed an ingenious set which allows both of John Smith’s London apartments to occupy the same space while Marotta keeps the action separately defined.
Unfortunately, I found Chris Briante as John Smith the cast member least suited to farce. I found his timing off, or possibly non-existent. Luckily P.C. Rice as his side-kick and neighbor Stanley Gardner has timing in spades, as do Amy Adams as wife Mary and Kelli Simpkins as wife Barbara. Simpkins is a particularly interesting actress who brings more to her role than the cardboard charictature author Ray Cooney has created deserves.
Speaking of charicatures, this show was written long before the idea of political correctness had ever entered anyone’s head. There is a broadly stereotypical homosexual male character, played uncomfortably by Jed Abrahams, and many jokes about gay men that may make modern audiences cringe. This is all very “Three’s Company” (you know, when Jack was always pretending to be gay so that the Ropers, and later Mr. Furley, would think that it was okay he was sharing an apartment with two women?)
John M. Trainor brings a bit of sanity into the show with his down-to-earth protrayal of Detective Sergeant Porterhouse. Daniel Huaghey as Detective Sergeant Throughton is properly British.
This being the second time in a week I have had to sit through American actors attempting to sustain foreign accents throughout a play, I must say the pace and farce of this show made the lapses easier to bear. One can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be less difficult for all concerned if the scene of the action had simply been transferred from London to New York. There was no reason these people particularly needed to be British to make the comedy work.
“Run for Your WIfe” runs through June 27 at The Theater Barn on Route 20 in New Lebanon, NY. The show runs two hours with one intermission. For tickets and information please call 518-794-8989.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999