by Jean Sidden
Farce depends on broad strokes in characterization, physical comedy and fast pace so the audience doesn’t question the absurdity of plot. Run For Your Wife, presented by The Gallery Players in Brooklyn, has promise of becoming the sort of tight package that’s necessary to make this sometimes tiresome style sizzle, however on opening night there were still too many holes in the delivery to guarantee consistent fun.
John Smith (Joshua Nicholson) is a London cab driver who has worked out a meticulous method for maintaining two separate households and two wives. His first wife, Mary (Maria Silverman) lives but four or so minutes away from the second household where John’s second wife, Barbara (Emily Hooper) resides. John has a little book where he has carefully codified every day to coordinate his work schedule with his double life. As his perfect lie unravels, after he is banged on the head with a handbag while interceding in a mugging, the world goes topsy-turvy and the fun should take over like a runaway roller coaster. His upstairs neighbor Stanley (Joseph Cassese) becomes as involved as John in the manic attempt to cover up the mess and ends up stoking the deceit and misunderstandings to the point of absurdity – at least in the audience’s point of view. The characters in such a play have to be completely invested from beginning to end to lend any kind of plausibility to some of the ridiculous action that takes place. It is that level of investment that is not yet present in the Gallery Players’ production, though some of the more active sequences prove the production has the capability of finding that snappy ensemble work.
Ray Cooney’s script should be called to task for some of the slower moments. There are exchanges in the dialogue that seem to be too reasonable and the actors look as if they are dropping out of topsy-turvy land and attempting to make sense of it all. A few of the actors haven’t found the broader strokes in their characters. Emily Hooper’s Barbara isn’t quite the sexy play thing she could be and Joseph Cassese’s Stanley, who was in the mess up to his eyeballs in the first act, gets too serious and pouty in the second act. Others, like Maria Silverman’s Mary and Michael Hardart’s Detective Sgt. Porterhouse, pick up steam and carry the comedy as the play goes on. Graciany Miranda’s Bobby Franklyn provides a jolt of much needed energy and perfect timing as the gay upstairs neighbor of second wife Barbara.
The play is set in 1972 and Jerry Mittelhauser’s set is a fun, colorful, and slightly seedy, combination of both flats with fluid staging between the two. Setting the play in this time could also be taken as a justification for the outdated gay jokes that abound in the second act or the overall sexism that’s always a part of farce. But the real question at the beginning of the play is why we should care about a man who is a bigamist and why his friend is working so hard to maintain his secret? The set up for the continuing action fails to capture interest in the milquetoast John who is hardly the sort to attract the attention of two women, let alone marry them. If it weren’t for a second act that barrels along, due primarily to Silverman, Hardart and Miranda, we might have too much space to wonder why John is so easily let off the hook in the play’s abrupt ending. Once the entire cast has picked up the pace and committed to the tomfoolery that lack of resolution, which rests with the playwright, won’t be noticed.
Run For Your Wife – Written by Ray Cooney. Directed by Mark Harborth.
WITH: Joshua Nicholson (John Smith), Maria Silverman (Mary Smith), Emily Hooper (Barbara Smith), James Swanson (Detective Sgt. Troughton), Joseph Cassese (Stanley Gardner), Michael Hardart (Detective Sgt. Porterhouse, Graciany Miranda (Bobby Franklyn), Timothy Park (Newspaper Reporter)
Scenic Design by Jerry Mittelhauser, Lighting by Scott A. Cally, Costumes by David Anthony Crowley, Sound by Jacob Subotnick, Props by Sara Slagle, Production Stage Manager, Matthew C. Luppino, Assistant Stage Manager, Liza Penney, Slapstick Consultant, Sara Slagle, Publicist, Michael Martinez. At The Gallery Players, 199 14th Street, Brooklyn, NY. www.galleryplayers.com., from January 17 – February 1, 2015. Running time 2 hours.