Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
September 14, 2012
Something’s afoot at the vicarage. There’s a quintet of real and faux vicars, some in their underwear, running amok, wielding cricket bats; a drunken busybody, wasted on cooking sherry; a bishop awash in manure; and a Nazi prisoner on the loose.
Sounds suspiciously like a farce, and Philip King’s 1947 “See How They Run” serves up the essentials: slamming doors, pratfalls and puns, mishaps, mayhem and mistaken identity.
The British bedlam and confused clerical collars appeal to Lamb’s Players Theatre so much, this is their third go-round with the feather-light trifle. The show was last seen in 1996, and three of the cast members are back, to hilarious effect.
Two are loose-limbed, rubber-faced, preternaturally funny comic actors: Myra McWethy as the gossipy old biddy, looped again, with her legs up in the air. And Paul Maley , with his uproarious pratfalls, as the most muddled of the ministers.
The third returnee is Cynthia Gerber, as the real vicar’s quick-witted wife, an American former actress who meets up with one of her theater buddies, nicely played by Brendan Farley. Together, they create wild acts and scenes by hiding clothes, bodies, relationships and errant parsons.
The show is a silly romp, kind of gutsy for its time, making light of the Nazis and their Pavlovian ‘Heil Hitlers !’ just as the war was ending. In fact, in the 1955 film, the escapee was changed to a Russian spy.
No attempt to keep up with the times here – what would it be? — a Middle Eastern terrorist? Nope, it’s still the Nazi, caught in a frenzied web of tumult and turmoil.
The ensemble is energetic, the set and costumes aptly evocative of the era. Splayed across the back wall is a deconstructed Union Jack that gives an early glimpse of the fragmented Brit-wit to come.
Funnyman Ron Choularton is actually more comical in his martial pre-show curtain speech than in his small military role. Kerry Meads, Jason Heil and Jim Chovick each have amusing moments. And though the huge talent of Jeffrey Jones is wasted on the goofy Nazi role, he gives it a Teutonic absurdity.
Director Robert Smyth keeps the pace lively, but somehow, despite a few cackle-worthy flashes, there aren’t any laugh-till-you-cry scenes like there were the last time .
Still, despite play and production weaknesses, the audience the night I was there hooted and cackled through the two acts and two hours, which is all anyone can ask of frippery like this.
We all know that the chaos of other people’s lives is an endless source of amusement. Get your giggles where you can… There’s still time for your last lick of bubbly, summertime fizz.
“See How They Run” continues through September 23, at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.
©2012 PAT LAUNER