When Clive Winton (Brandon Garside) remarks “I’ve played in too many plays where the characters do this sort of thing and something always goes wrong.” He couldn’t possibly have known the disaster that was about to ensue.
Of all the types of comedies you might find on stage, the farce is my favorite. Having reviewed Noises Off another recent farce at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville and having recently seen Scapin down at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, I was excited to experience another such comedy.
Even though See How They Run was written in the early 40’s and adapted to film in the mid 50’s, I’d never seen a production of this wild and uproarious mishap until I had the opportunity to attend in the Connie Leishman Performance Hall (black box) at Centerpoint.
Set in 1943, we meet Penelope Toop (Katie Evans) who is the wife of the local vicar. In short, a vicar is a person who is acting on behalf of someone. In the theater world, think agent or someone who is authorized to perform functions for another. However, vicars are most often found in the religious context (as in this case) and they are considered a representative of Christ on earth (but different than a bishop, priest or pastor). The story all takes place in the home of the Vicar and his wife Penelope.
Among the rest of the cast is Ida (Lynley Hogan) the maid, Miss Skillon (Missy Riffle) a meddling churchgoer who is quite put off with the actions of Penelope (a former American actress – gasp) and of course, the Vicar (Darin J. Beardall) who has left town for the evening on an errand.
Before long, an old actor friend of Penelope’s stops by unexpectedly – Clive Winton (Brandon Garside) who in now in the army but decides to ditch army regulations and thus changes into a vicar’s outfit to sneak off and see Noel Coward’s play Private Lives with Penelope. Shortly before they leave, for old times sake (they met as actors on the touring production of the same show) the two reenact a scene from Private Lives and busybody Miss Skillon is caught up in the mayhem.
While the first act is full off snappy one-liners the farcical humor is not there yet. However, as Evans and Garside reenact Private Lives in the final scene we get just a taste of what’s in store for us in the second act. With some fast paced staging and intentional overacting on their part we come to a screeching intermission with Miss Skillon knocked out cold on the floor and Penelope and Clive staring over her in dismay.
Once we get rolling in the second act, enter Penelope’s uncle who is a bishop in clerical uniform – of course! Now we have three gentlemen in the same vicar outfit and you can imagine the mistaken identity pandemonium that will ensue. But just for good measure, let’s throw in two more “vicars” (one of which happens to be a Russian spy on the run) and see what happens!
Riffle as the drunk Miss Skillon at the top of act two was my absolute favorite scene of the night. Riffle played the confused and bewildered woman with some of the most over the top and subtle humor I have seen in a long time. From the kneading (yes, like a cat) of the couch cushions to the passing out in the middle of the room, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
The fun chemistry between Evans (Penelope) and Garside (Clive) was traded back and forth with great ease. Their bickering, reminiscent of siblings, and obvious comfort with each other proved a great concoction for the antics they found themselves in.
Hogan’s one-line quips as Ida were deployed with precise timing and Beardall (Toop) created a calmness in the mayhem. In fact, I enjoyed the entire cast! Todd Hogan said very little the first few times we met him but said oh so much with his facial expressions. Brain Hahn pulled off the distinguished Bishop with reverence and Ricky Ferlin’s curtsies were a riot. And Finally Joe Nichols as the skittish Humphrey, who was apparently fond of hot water bottles, was quite a delight.
The staging and choreography (assumed to be done by Director Michael Nielsen) during the farcical chase scene was so much fun and like he said in his director’s note this black box theater “gives us a chance to bring more intimate, and possibly not as well known, productions to this area, and this show is the perfect choice.” While it was opening night, the timing on a farce is hard to pull together, I expect it to tighten up just a bit more and when the jokes start landing a tad bit faster, I think the ride will be outrageous.
My main issue with the production may actually be found in the consistency of the script. Several times during the first act it is mentioned that they are low on alcohol and only seem to have cooking sherry to offer people. And at the end of the first act, we have Miss Skillon knocked out on the floor. However, the beginning of the second act opens with her drunk and passed out on the couch and enough alcohol in the house to provide comedic drinks for the entire second half. First, where did the alcohol come from and second, how did Miss Skillon go from being knocked out with Penelope and Clive nearby to being drunk and alone in the house?
Having now seen two (Importance of Being Earnest) productions at this little theater in Centerville, I can tell you that I am fast becoming a big fan. See How They Run is no exception! Playing to a nearly sold out house on opening night, don’t wait to get your tickets to this ridiculously funny and amazingly brilliant production!
See How They Run is playing in the Connie Leishman Performance Hall at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville through September 1st. More information and tickets may be purchased by visiting their website.
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