Coronado, CA—Farce: sham, circus, mockery, travesty, absurd situation. Call it what you will, but See How They Run is all of the above.
Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado has little gift for you as the closing months of summer make way for the seriousness of fall. It comes in the form of Philip King’s hilariously funny See How They Run. Of course it doesn’t hurt that this particular production, broadly directed by artistic director Robert Smyth, has a most competent cast, faultless timing, a perfect set with the right amount of doors to slam and hide inconvenient characters and the actors more than fit for farce. It’s all in the game plan, so hang on to your hats.
The set up is pretty stock as far as farce goes: It’s set in England, 1944 just at the end of WWII. Local Vicar, The Reverend Lionel Toop (Jason Heil) is married to an American actress, Penelope (Cynthia Gerber). On this particular night, he is called away from home for a church function.
In the meantime Penelope’s freewheeling acting past doesn’t quite give her the necessary skills to play the part of the vicar’s wife especially when her once leading man, Clive Winton (Brendan Farley) now in the Air Force serving in England, shows up unexpectedly at the vicars and he and Penelope decide to stage a reenactment of the ‘fight scene’ in Private Lives (a show they both appeared in) just as her nemesis the snoopy, gossiping Miss Skillon (Myra McWethy) walks in on them and thinks Penelope is having a donnybrook with the vicar.
Things go from bad to worse when the two inadvertently knock Miss Skillon out. When she comes to, she drinks enough sherry to pickle a grown man because of what she thinks she saw. Ida (Kerry Meads), the Toop maid drags Miss Skillon off into the closet to get her out of the way while Penelope and Clive, now in the vicars clothes, go out for the evening to see the play Private Lives.
Things get even more convoluted when the vicar arrives home only to be greeted by a dangerous escaped Nazi prisoner (Jeffrey Jones), who knocks the vicar out and changes into his clothes. And now there are two men in vicar’s clothes while the real vicar, after he comes to, is running around the house chasing windmills with a golf club in his boxer shorts.
Add to the mix a visiting vicar The Reverend Arthur Humphrey (Paul Maley) and now we have three who are dressed as vicars. Complicating things, Penelope’s uncle the Bishop of Lax, (Jim Chovick) who, arrives for a visit a day early, gets roped into the chase and things go from madcap to mayhem as they run around in circles like a dog chasing his tail.
When all is said and done, there are four men dressed in clergy garb; three are imposters, one is the real McCoy. The fun is not in trying to figure out who or what since we already know that. The fun is watching the silly antics of four adult males chasing around after each other with no chance in hell of them catching up with one another; and doing it in earnest.
But the barrel of monkey fun in See How They Run is centered on McWethy and her absolute genus in timing as Miss Skillon. She get knocked out, dragged down and thrown into the coat closet more times than you can count and she is the funniest thing going on that stage. McWethy, who has been absent from our stages for a time is a most welcome face on the San Diego scene these days.
Coming in a close second, Kerry Meads as Ida has the straight role as the cockney maid who shows up just in the nick of time to have missed all the action, yet knows something is afoot but can’t put her finger on it. She just about steals the show every time she walks into the parlor setting.
Cynthia Gerber is another player that has impeccable timing in comedy. Her Penelope is a role made for her and she wears Jemima Dutra’s (costume design) 1940’s clothes just about as well as anyone this reviewer knows especially those loose fitting trousers that Miss Skillon thinks are an abomination for any self respecting vicar’s wife.
The men fare OK as well but it’s the gals who really have the best time of it although Jim Chovick does get some pretty good laughs as the flummoxed Bishop, who in the end, ends up chasing himself around the vicarage just like the others. Jason Heil serves the vicar role well and Ron Choularton is the loud mouthed Sergeant that opens the show with all the necessary announcements and closes it by sorting out the who of the whose whosever, after a bit.
Mike Buckley’s set is just what the doctor ordered. His parlor set is sparsely appointed with just enough furniture for Miss Skillon to fall on to a small sofa, a large area rug for her to get wrapped up in, a trunk to store the necessary assortment of bats for whacking folks over the head and to store clothes that need to be retrieved later on but more importantly enough doors to create the havoc needed for hiding, coming and going, running to and fro and peeking through. A staircase leading to the upstairs living quarters is barely used, but is a nice touch while a huge painted Union Jack is a perfect backdrop for this 1940’s romp.
More than once I found myself laughing so hard that tears were running down my cheeks. This is a good opportunity for anyone looking for a night out of fun at the theatre. Enjoy!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: through Sept. 23rd
Organization: Lamb’s Players Theatre
Production Type: Farce
Where: 1142 Orange Ave, Coronado
Ticket Prices: $2600-$60.00