“Run for Your Wife,” Ray Cooney’s farce of bigamy and mistaken identity, is quite possibly the perfect stage play.
The fast pacing, the physical comedy, its relatively small cast and easily recognizable characters all add up to an evening of theater that will leave you wanting to see it again for more laughs and to catch what you might have missed the first time around.
At Beef & Boards, you have from now until Feb. 7.
The plot centers around John Smith (Eddie Curry) — an ordinary guy, as Barbara (Erin Cohenour) and Mary (Sarah Hund) state on the phone when they both report him to the police as missing.
John drives a cab and keeps odd hours, but the anonymity of being ordinary is quite possibly how he has managed to maintain his double life — with two homes and two wives (Mary and Barbara) — for as long as he has. He keeps a very cryptic and detailed date book to help him divide his time evenly between the two women, but an encounter with a mugger and the subsequent head injury leave him dazed and confusing his calendar.
So instead of CDWB (Cuddly Day With Barbara) in Streatham, he mistakenly arrives for BWM (Breakfast with Mary) in Wimbledon. His efforts to escape the motherly clutches of Mary and get to Barbara, where his datebook says he is supposed to be, and get his schedule back on track, are the stuff of comedy gold.
Part of the comedic genius of Eddie Curry, a regular on the Beef & Boards stage, can be summed up in the elasticity of his face. He is a master at creating the round-eyed, gasping-for-air sense of panic, especially in moments when he is in danger of being found out for the conniving two-timer that he is.
The audience repeatedly holds its collective breath right along with him when he ends up talking on the phone to Mary from Barbara’s apartment.
Jeff Stockberger as the unemployed upstairs neighbor, Stanley Gardner, gives more than a nod to Art Carney of the old ’50s sitcom, “The Honeymooners,” parading around in his bathrobe. Given his height, his physical comedy throughout the performance is surprisingly graceful, and one can’t help but be reminded of Jim Carrey in his ability to take his shtick to the next level to earn the laughs he deserves.
Hund and Cohenour establish their respective characters early with Hund being Mary, the nurturing wife, and Cohenour as the friskier of the two in her red Naomi Judd wig, her skimpy nightgown and her demands that John join her in bed immediately.
Adam Crowe’s perfect portrayal of the clueless Detective Porterhouse, with his penchant for giving marital advice, adds another dimension to the tangled plotline. As John and Stanley struggle to keep up with the twists and turns of each other’s cover stories and lies, Porterhouse adds to the audience’s guffaws with his misguided discussion of spousal pet names. If you want to know what they are, you’ll have to see the play.
Sean Blake, with his perpetual all-knowing smirk as flamboyant fashion designer and would-be interior decorator Bobby Franklyn, is a scene-stealer. His custom-created “gotcha” gestures, his lightning fast sing-song line delivery and the two red-painted handprints on the back pockets of his white pants mark him as an audience favorite.
Another of the delights of this play is the smattering of British terminology throughout the dialogue of this very British comedy. Barbara lives in a flat in Streatham; Bobby Franklyn designs frocks; John Smith had a go with two blokes; Detective Porterhouse outs Stanley Gardner as a Nancy.
It’s like powdered sugar on the icing of an already wonderfully rich cake.
The set design does a passable job of creating the illusion of two rooms in two separate flats with two sets of doors, different-styled telephone tables on each end of the couch and a different color curtain hanging on each side of the large center window. And given the chaos of the plotline, the actors on stage did a commendable job of ignoring each other if they were supposed to be in different locations.
However, it was difficult to determine whether one of the four doors on the stage led to the kitchen of one flat or to the bedroom of another since the characters entered and exited through all four doors as if it were just one room in one flat.
One of the enjoyable aspects of many Beef & Boards productions is the chemistry among the actors on stage. In this production, Curry, Hund, Stockberger, Crowe and Blake are all reprising their roles from the 2008 production of “Run for Your Wife,” and Cohenour is fresh from playing Morticia opposite of Curry’s Gomez in Beef & Boards’ October production of “The Addams Family.”
The actors in this very strong ensemble cast have mastered the art of the pause after each bout of physical comedy as they compete with each other for laughs. They give the audience plenty of time to laugh and then catch its breath before more hilarity ensues.
Christine Schaefer is the arts editor for the Daily Reporter. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Run for your Wife” plays at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre now through Feb. 7. For ticket information and pricing, visit beefandboards.com or call 317-872-9664.