If you are like me and think "Noises Off" is one of the funniest comedies of all time, you are in for a major treat at the Barn Theatre in Montville. This award winning community theatre with a long history of producing plays the equal of many professional companies including much of Off-Broadway, is currently presenting an absolutely hilarious production of the adult British farce "Run For Your Wife" written by Ray Cooney and directed by Chris Mortenson. The play, loaded with a heavy dose of political incorrectness (1980's gay stereotypes), was a huge success in London's West End running from 1983 to 1991. It was less successful on Broadway and later as a film in 2012.
Director Mortenson is actually more of a ringmaster....demonstrating considerable skill in keeping the action, and the actors, moving at a fast clip in this wild adventure with almost non-stop laughter. The plot is relatively uncomplicated, but the clever, amusing way confusion is piled on confusion is a total joy.
The excellent cast includes: Lauren Klemp, Joe Wohlgemuth, Tom Morrisey, Ruth Morley, Dave McDonald, Chris Esmerado, Jonathan Rudolph and Craig Zimmermann.
John Smith (Tom Morrisey) is a London taxi driver AND a bigamist. Smith is able to manage having two wives Mary (Ruth Morley) and Barbara (Lauren Klemp) due to his flexible work schedule and the cross town distance he is able to keep between the two households.
His "idyllic" arrangement is seriously challenged when he attempts to rescue an old lady from muggers. In the process of committing this heroic act, she knocks him unconscious with her handbag thinking him an accomplice of the attackers.
This requires an overnight stay in a hospital ward. In the morning, both wives simultaneously call their local police stations to report the missing Taxi driver John Smith. Now the fun begins! The press want to publish his story with a front page picture, plus the police from both stations (Dave McDonald and Craig Zimmerman) arrive at both flats to "sort out" the confusion of a man with two addresses. Smith must rush back and forth between his two wives, trying to untangle the marital mess he has made.
"Run For Your Wife" is pure fun. A nonstop roller coaster ride with marvelous performances from the "spot-on" Tom Morrisey as the stressed-out Taxi driver John Smith. Morrisey is particularly hilarious in his resourcefulness in destroying the revealing newspaper photo. First wife: Mary Smith is beautifully played by Ruth Morley. Morley is in top form when she skips, screams and strips as her world is turned upside down. The Second wife: Barbara Smith is played by Lauren Klemp making an impressive Barn Theatre debut as Smith's ready-for-sex "Lady in Red".....red negligee, that is.
Much of the humor comes from the inter play of Smith and his moronic upstairs neighbor, the unemployed Stanley Gardener Gardener, who reluctantly aids in Smith's deception is Jonathan Rudolph. Rudolph, coming off two notable performances at The Barn (God of Carnage and Lend Me A Tenor) nicely demonstrates his considerable comedic skills. Craig Zimmerman impresses with his tailored, efficient, toothpick between-the-teeth, all business style as Detective Sergeant Troughton. The second policeman, Detective Sergeant Porterhouse is played by Dave McDonald who earns a goodly share of the laughs with his fun bit-of-a-bumbler performance. Joe Wohlgemuth is terrific in the role of Barbara Smith's new upstairs neighbor, the very gay, Bobby Franklin. Rounding out the cast is Christopher Esmerado as the highly intrusive newspaper photographer. This is Chris' first effort at The Barn.
"Run For Your Wife" may be a dated play (1980's), but the mix-up comedy format works very well today in the hands of this talented cast and crew. You have until April 5 to see this laugh-a-minute production.
The play is performed on one attractive interior living room set divided equally to represent the two Smith flats (Right: Mary Smith, Left: Barbara Smith) with design and construction by Lawrence Gabriel and crew, plus decor by Laura Kennedy and Joe Guadara. Other key credits: Jill Cappuccino props; Jeff Knapp sound design; Alexandra Kiely costume design; Jessica Phelan hair and makeup; Larry Wilbur lighting design; Omar Kozarsky lighting and sound operation; and Alice Regan-Moynahan stage manager.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio March 16, 2014
We give the final word to Director Chris Mortenson:
"Before the age of the Internet, iPhones, iPads and all the rest of these electronic labor saving devices that we are blessed with in 2014, life was much simpler.. .Well if this show is any indication, maybe not simpler but definitely more innocent. Okay, maybe not that either. Different, let's stick with that, life was different. Back when you were tethered to a wall whenever you wanted to make a phone call, and when keeping a daily planner meant you actually had to write things down in a book. In reality, the story of Run For Your Wife would be practically inconceivable given today's technology. Our poor taxi driving hero, with all his secrets, would most likely be exposed by page five, rather than lasting an entire two acts. The political incorrectness throughout the play is at times shocking to the sensitive 2014 mindset.
How many derogatory terms for one group of people can you possibly use in one sitting? But at the end of the day this is a comedy; and not just any comedy, but a British Farce. Such intellectual thoughts have no place here. We are not meant to try and make sense of this, to try and understand the overtones and underlying meanings behind such events. We are simply meant to laugh. That is this play's sole purpose. To paraphrase an expert on the subject, one Mr. Roger Rabbit: this play's whole purpose in life is.. .to. . .make.....people........laugh. And so in the grand theatrical tradition I offer you this: "Playgoers, I bid you welcome. The theater is a temple and we are here to worship the gods of Comedy and Tragedy. Tonight I am pleased to announce a comedy. We shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you."
The Barn Theatre is located at 32 Skyline Drive in Montville, NJ, just minutes off Route 287 (Exit 47). For more information or directions, call 973-334-9320 ext. 5, or visit www.barntheatre.org
Performances will be on March 14, 21, 22, 28, 29 and April 4th and 5th 2014 at 8 pm; and on March 15, 16, 23 and 30th at 2 pm. Tickets are $18 (senior/student tickets are $16 on matinees only).