RUN FOR YOUR WIFE

Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, January 2000

One of the really great things about being a theatre critic is that you get to see all the shows. And one of the really awful things about being a theatre critic is that you have to see all the shows. No one in their right mind would sit through two productions of Ray Cooney's 1960's chestnut "Run for Your Wife" - replete with bad British accents - in the space of seven months. Which probably is a pretty good argument for what actors, directors and producers have suspected all along - theatre critics are not in their right minds!

When I saw the Town Players schedule in September and saw that they had selected "Run for Your Wife" as their winter production, I muttered darkly about theatre companies who didn't bother to look at neighboring theatre companies' schedules to see what had just been done recently in the area. When I arrived at the theatre and saw in the program that Town Players had borrowed costumes from The Theater Barn, the local company that produced this show last June, I was horrified. Exactly how many people in the greater Pittsfield area want to spend their time and money on "Run for Your Wife"?? I have since discovered that there was a third production within an hour's drive of Pittsfield this past summer.

I can see the appeal of Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams, whose works pop up more frequently in area theatres than dandelions on an August lawn, but darned if I can see the allure of "Run for Your Wife". I personally own well over a thousand play scripts, and not one of them is "Run for Your Wife". There are shows out there at really deserve a production, and local audiences deserve better than being subjected to the same old British sex farce three times in a year.

I did, however, have high hopes for the Town Players production. They did a nice job with the far superior farce "Noises Off" in 1998, and there are worse ways to spend a frigid January evening, during the theatrical desert that is the Berkshire ski season, than cuddled up with a good door-slamming, pants-dropping, identity-mistaking farce. Cooney's script is lugubrious and sexist and saddled with far too many characters and plot twists, but given a cheerful, energetic company such as the one assembled at The Theater Barn last June, it can be an entertaining evening.

Alas, Christopher Dea has directed a ploddingly slow version, hampered by an uneven cast. At first blush Joseph Breen was way too young to play bigamist John Smith, but he grew on me as the evening progressed. Laurel Stackowitz looked lovely as wife #2 Barbara, but she was hard to hear and never quite pulled her character together - not that Cooney has written much of a character for either woman in the cast to play. Justina Trova just looked so miserably unhappy on stage as wife #1 Mary, that I wanted to hand her a box of Kleenex. Possibly there was a great tragedy going on in her personal life that night, and if so I offer my sympathies, but she really did look about to burst into tears at the curtain call.

On the plus side, Kevin Wixsom was a riot as John's hapless side-kick Stanley. This really is a bullet-proof role for a mature actor, and Wixsom just ran with it. Sam Slack did some fine double-takes as Detective Sargeant Troughton of the Wimbledon police, but the show lost a lot of energy due to the lack-luster performance of his counterpart, Ed McDonnell, as Detective Sargeant Porterhouse of the Streatham police. Michael Grogan was so downright embarrassingly bad as Bobby Franklin that I won't even go into it. Thank God it's a minor role!

Bob Boland delivered another handsome and practical set, which Slack lit nicely. The round, on-stage seating at the Boland Theatre is still less than ideal. Sight lines are poor and I strongly suspect that the people sitting at the far sides of the audience saw little more than the backs of the actors and an occasional profile.

The Town Players of Pittsfield will perform "Run for Your Wife" at 8 pm on Friday, January 21 and Saturday, January 22, at the Robert Boland Theatre on the campus of Berkshire Community College, 1350 West Street in Pittsfield. The show runs two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission. Call the Town Players box office at 413-443-9279 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 2000

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