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Philadelphia by Tim Dunleavy

Run for Your Wife


Amy Frear, Joel Guerrero and
Alexis Newbauer

Run for Your Wife was playwright Ray Cooney's biggest hit in London's West End, where it enjoyed a nine-year run ending in 1991. It's easy to see why: it's one of those plays that's so ridiculous that it's funny—although for some viewers, it may be so ridiculous that it's stupid. Its concepts are one-dimensional and dated, and they probably seemed that way in the eighties too. But director Penelope Reed's spirited production at Hedgerow Theatre—the theatre's twelfth Cooney farce in as many summers—keeps the jokes coming so quickly that you may not have time to think about the issues the show raises. And since this is a play that never takes anything seriously, the production is just about perfect for Cooney's simple but crowd-pleasing style of comedy.

This one is about John Smith, a London cab driver whose busy schedule somehow allows him time to juggle two wives in two apartments without the ladies finding out about each other. (How does he afford it all? Sure, he works long hours, but his passengers must be great tippers.) But after John gets in an accident, his wives are curious about why he gave the hospital two addresses ... and a pair of police officers are curious, too. John makes up a cover story, which leads to a series of even more outlandish cover stories—too many to keep count. Before the day is over, one of John's wives will be mistaken for a nun, the other will be mistaken for a transsexual, and John's randy, unemployed neighbor will be mistaken for everything from a farmer to John's gay lover.

Like so many of Cooney's plays, Run for Your Wife is full of stock types and sexual attitudes that haven't aged well. There's the protagonist who has no moral qualms about committing bigamy, the wife whose only purpose in life is to dress provocatively and tempt her husband with sex, and the dense policeman. And there's also the flouncing fashion designer neighbor, who is just one example of the troublesome homophobia that often pervades Cooney's plays. (That homophobia is remarkably strong this time around; when was the last time you heard someone called a "pansy"?)

But Reed's production moves so quickly that it makes even the most troubling aspects of Run for Your Wife go down easily. (Well, somewhat easily.) And in a show where the slightest expression carries a lot of weight, the cast makes the most of those expressions—from Andrew Parcell's leer as the neighbor to Zoran Kovcic's deadpan stare as the befuddled cop. Joel Guerrero, while not looking especially English, is agreeably flustered as the husband, while Alexis Newbauer and Amy Frear lend solid support as the wives; Frear's descent from propriety to disarray is especially nice to see. Kovcic's baby blue set features one room doubling as two, yet it never gets confusing as to which room we're actually in.

Run for Your Wife is no comedy classic, but if you meet it on its own silly terms, you'll have a good time.

Run for Your Wife runs through August 18, 2013, at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. Ticket prices range from $25 to $32, with discounts for seniors and children, and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-565-4211 or online at www.HedgerowTheatre.org.


-- Tim Dunleavy



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