Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Run for Your Wife
John Smith is an easygoing, happily married London taxi driver. Well, happily married to two women with two separate homes, keeping everything in order thanks to a well scheduled timetable that allows him equal time with both women and no chance of them ever finding out about the other. His only problem? After getting hit on the head while trying to save an old woman from a couple of muggers, he mistakenly gives one address to the hospital and another to the police. When two different policemen come to investigate at the two separate homes, his double life starts to spiral out of control, with John telling lies that pile up as he attempts to cover his tracks as he races back and forth between his two wives with all out lunacy prevailing.
Director Victor Legarreta has plenty of experience with Cooney's plays, having performed or directed in seventeen different productions of the playwright's comedies. That experience is put to good use in this production, not only in his skilled direction of the fast-paced, quick precision timing of the cast but also in that Legarreta does double duty and is also playing John. He brings an appropriate sense of the "normal" man who is experiencing a very un-normal day, with a nice touch of both redeeming and likable qualities. Rushing back and forth between two homes and two wives, while he tries to untangle the mess he has made, gives Legarreta plenty of moments to show not only his perfect comic line delivery but also his physical comic abilities as well. One scene that involves a newspaper that Smith is trying to hide from his wife is especially hilarious.
The rest of the cast is just as hard working, with every one of them willing to throw themselves with glee into the ridiculous situations that Cooley has crafted. As John's two wives, Caitlin Newman and Shannon Connolly have flawless timing in the opening sequence that sets things up, with both of them seamlessly delivering the rapid back and forth lines with ease. Both also successfully display the confused expressions and frustration encountered as the two women start hearing things about their husband that don't quite make sense.
As John's unemployed neighbor Stanley Gardner, whom John confides his secret with, Erik Hogan has keen physical comic abilities, at times even throwing himself over a couch with profound agility, as he attempts to help in the deception, but just ends up making things worse. Jesse Staubach and Mark Kleinman play the two detectives and, since they both are observers to the hysterics, it's effective that each stays even keeled throughout. It's also a nice effect of the casting that they look and sound very different from each other, with the younger Staubach more a "by the book" officer with a crisp English accent and the older Kleinman providing an amusing touch as the older cop who not only stutters his "p's" every time he says his last name "Porterhouse" but also finds himself slightly pulled into the hilarity, even donning an apron at one point and serving tea. Joel Duke rounds out the ensemble as the gay upstairs neighbor, delivering his lines fittingly with the stereotypical swish and swagger.
The play is full of British stereotypes, from the dutiful wife and sexist husband to the upper-crust policemen and the flippant gay neighbor. Fortunately, the cast portrays the characters more as part of a period piece, with any political incorrectness of the time period adding to the jokes.
Run for Your Wife is a perfect fit for the intimate Marquee Theatre at the Palms, with set and props designer Thomas R. Prather constructing simple yet nicely detailed, side-by-side living rooms that allow the play to unfold in both locations simultaneously. Tia Hawkes' costumes are period appropriate and the sound design and direction also include well-timed sound effects of doorbells and phones ringing that add to the comical moments, though at the performance I attended there was an ongoing issue with the amplification of the effects, which hopefully has been resolved. Also, the English accents of the cast are spot on and consistent.
With a neverending series of misunderstandings, mix-ups, and highly improbable events with plenty of fast paced, well timed entrances and exits and a series of slamming doors, this is a high energy production that is not only entertaining but has a sweet charm as well. While the play does bog down a bit in the second act, the Palms cast has impeccable timing and performances that, while appropriately over-the-top, never go too far and easily make you forget about the play's few shortcomings. With the cast delivering the requisite speed and energy, it is perfectly ridiculous, just as farce should be.
Next week, the Palms opens up Cooney's sequel to this play, Caught in the Net, and performs both plays in repertory through November 15th.
The Palms Theatre production of Run For Your Wife runs through November 15th, 2014, at 5247 East Brown Road in Mesa. Tickets and information for their upcoming productions can be found at thepalmstheatre.com or by calling 480 924-6260.
Written by Ray Cooney