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Theater Review: Run For Your Wife

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Theater Review: Run For Your Wife

By Malena Eljumaily

You know how you get that one line when you write an Amazon review that serves as the headline? Here’s mine for Run For Your Wife which just opened at the Cloverdale Center for the Arts: I LOVED This Play! Why? Because I laughed a lot and don’t we all need plenty of laughter with the election just around the corner and so much else going on in the news to bring us down.

Run For Your Wife by Ray Cooney, is a British farce set in London in 1983. To put the audience in the mood, tunes by such iconic 80’s bands as Thompson Twins, ABC and Men at Work, waft through the theater as they take their seats. Lots of fun for those of us who haven’t really thought about that music for a while, but still can’t help but sing along when we hear it in the supermarket.

This play is a classic tale of no good deed going unpunished. London cabbie, John Smith, played with understated excellence by Rusty Thompson, has his life completely turned around because he came to the aid of an old lady being mugged. Before that John’s life had been uneventful and ordinary aside from the fact that he had two wives. It seems to have been just a minor complication up until then. John wants to keep his duplicity from his wife in Wimbledon (Angela Squire) and the nosy cop (Dan Stryker) who insists on crossing all the T’s in his report.

One lie leads to another. John reluctantly gets his layabout upstairs neighbor, Stanley (Jonathan Graham) involved in the subterfuge, as he dashes off to see his wife in Streatham (Nichole Phillips) who has already contacted her local police to report her husband missing.  Detective Porterhouse (Thomas Gibson) would also like to get to the bottom of the John Smith question. The pace is fast and funny. At some points there isn’t enough time to finish laughing at one joke or absurd comment before another comes along. 

My reaction to the costume design (Amy Lovato, also the director) was yikes, did we really dress that way? It was with squeamish nostalgia I remembered wearing flowery tea-length dresses like Mary’s (shoulder pads and all), not to mention Barbara’s spandex outfit. John’s Member’s Only jacket and Stanley’s Olivia Newton John T-shirt are also nice touches. 

The set, designed by Forest Fortescue, a typical English sitting room, serves as both houses. With comings and goings from the two doors on either side of the stage, I admit I got a bit confused once or twice over which house we were in, but didn’t let it worry me. The actors bounce back and forth so often it doesn’t warrant keeping a scorecard. 

It’s also impossible to keep track of which police detective knows what or thinks who is who (lots of mistaken identity here) and that’s all part of the fun, too. It’s just a lot of craziness and I left the theater with a smile on my face. 

There’s something that’s especially enjoyable about wacky British humor. As someone who grew up watching Monty Python, I can’t get enough of that absurd brand of comedy. And what a great job this band of American actors does with this oh so English play.