The Barn Theatre opened “Run For Your Wife,” the 15thof British playwright Ray Cooney’s 24 farces, Tuesday evening.
The near-capacity audience never stopped laughing.
Under the direction of Hans Friedrichs, the seven-member cast (plus one on/off mini-role) works incredibly hard, both to keep the increasingly iangled mess of a plot straight and to remember who they are, where and when.
Not an easy assignment, especially when the intrigue reaches peak level.
I say this because, as an observer, I found myself wondering just what was happening and to whom as the increasingly frantic protagonists scurried, scampered and sometimes slid across the floor in order to keep the truth from coming out.
But when it finally does (sort of) who can remember what it was anyway?
Let me first say that in lieu of The Barn’s former farceurs excellent, the 2018 cast does a solid job. There is no need for extreme characterization in any Cooney farce. Rather the emphasis is on double entendre and flat-out sex jokes, all of which the opening night audience seem to grasp and completely enjoy.
The tale of London cab driver John Smith (Jonnie Carpathios) who juggles a very tight schedule in order to facilitate his two wives: Mary Smith (Melissa Cotton Hunter) in Wimbledon and Barbara Smith (Samantha Rickard) in Streatham, both of whom seem quite contented, as long as he is on time, to live in ignorance. (Note: It never says how long it take to get from one address to the other but obviously not too long.)
When a mugging incident sends John to the hospital and throws his matrimonial timetable off the track, his perfect situation becomes a perfect nightmare!
Each of the wives feels worried enough to call the police. Enter Detective Sergeant Thoroughton (Justin Mathews) from Streatham and Detective Sergeant Porterhouse (John Jay Espino) from Wimbledon, who eventually do more than compare notes.
In the “absolutely no help at all” department is John’s BFF Stanley Garden (Patrick Hunter), a large (and largely out of work) blundering buddy who describes himself as “one of the government’s vital statistics” and only succeeds in making the situations worse every time he opens his mouth.
The same goes for a new neighbor now living above Barbara’s apartment. Bobby Franklin (Steven Lee Burright) is a middle-aged gentlemen with a penchant for painting and decorating whose encounter with a can of red paint creates a minor disaster.
Since this is a Cooney farce, it goes without saying that eventually many wind up in their underwear, without, of course, any good reason.
Actually, “good reason” is not a description for any Cooney farce.. The protagonists build lie upon lie and deception upon deception in an effort to disguise the initial wrong-doing, in this case, of course, bigamy.
The major plus for this production, in addition to the colorfully quirky two-in-one set design by Samantha Snow, is the fast-paced action — physical and verbal — and the well-timed reactions to all things misinterpreted by the “unbreakable” cast.
Reacting — and holding that reaction — while the audience is delivering extended laughter is definitely one of the most challenging efforts in any farce. Especially in one by Cooney where all the innuendo is based on allusions to sex, of one kind or another.
Staying in absurd character and holding the proper reaction is one of the major demands of any farce.
The Barn cast handles it exactly.
In this day and age, a Cooney farce must be considered the relic of an older time. Something that is very funny in its own time period, but rather jarringly out of time today.
“RUN FOR YOUR WIFE” plays through July 29 in the playhouse on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (269) 731-4121.