BWW Reviews: RUN FOR YOUR WIFE Takes a Comic Look at a Taxi Driver's Double Lives
From the antics of silent film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, to the more modern chicanery of the Marx Brothers or the physical comedy of the Three Stooges, people love to laugh out loud at the goings on of individuals trying to get away with something, even when they know they are doomed to get caught. Such is the tale told in Ray Cooney's RUN FOR YOUR WIFE, brilliantly directed at a breakneck pace by Gary Robbins at the Torrance Theatre Company through October 12.This superb example of the British farce had audiences rolling in the aisles in London and New York when it opened in 1983. The plot centers on John Smith, an everyman taxi driver who attempts to get away with having two wives in different areas of London because of his irregular work schedule. Complication is piled upon complication as the cabby tries to keep his double life from exploding after he is mugged and ends up in the hospital, where both of his addresses surface. Soon the cabby, with some well-intentioned, poorly executed help from his lazy upstairs neighbor Stanley, is hopelessly entangled in explaining himself to two wives and two relentless police officers.
Cabby John Smith (Frank Pepito, enduring quite a physical workout trying to keep both wives in line) has a good thing going, managing two households by arranging his work hours so he is able to spend nights with one wife and mornings with the other, each none the wiser. He married Mary Smith (Jennifer Faneuff) first, but within 4 months met Barbara (Amanda Webb) when she hailed his cab, then invited him to tea before proposing marriage. And since John had not mentioned the fact he was already married and Barbara lived 4 ½ minutes away from his home with Mary, the idea seemed plausible and very appealing.
The play begins with both wives calling the police from their respective homes to report their husband is missing. When John is brought home to Mary after being proclaimed a hero for trying to prevent two thieves from stealing an older woman's purse (and getting hit in the head with it in the process), Detective Sgt. Troughton (Geoff Lloyd) takes down the facts of what happened and inquiring as to why the hospital has a different address for him. Thus starts the panic in John's mind, worrying that Mary will find out about his other home and wife.
When John and Mary's inquisitive and unemployed upstairs neighbor Stanley (rubber-faced comic Gary Kresca) drops in, he takes a great interest in what happened to poor John, even taking a call and giving the address to an inquisitive reporter (Daniel Tennant) who shows up and manages to take a photo of John and Mary to run in the day's paper. This possibility terrifies John - what if Barbara sees it?
When John and Stanley are left alone, John confesses his fears about his dual lives to Stanley and the merriment begins as Stanley attempts to cover for John, leading to Stanley's several mistaken identities including a rural farmer, a second John Smith, or the real John Smith's gay lover. Each situation is more hysterical than the last with Pepito and Kresca often leading each other into more ridiculous lies to cover their stories.
And of course when John finally manages to call Barbara (Amanda Webb, dressed in the high class black lingerie a farce requires) to let her know where he is and why he is late getting home to her, John's concocted story is that his cab broke down in the country and he has been staying with a farmer, a role Stanley gladly takes on. When John finally gets home to Barbara, Detective Sgt Porterhouse (Tim Blake) arrives to take down his story, again mentioning the two different addresses. And since John had told Barbara he was on a farm, he describes his injury is from hitting his head on a beam. Now will John and Stanley remember what lies they have told to which police officer and which wife? They do their best and hilarity ensues.
Added in to the mix is Barbara's new upstairs neighbor, the very gay Bobby Franklyn (Daniel Tennant, playing it to the hilt noticing his clothing matches Barbara's furnishings), who first borrows a cup of milk and then returns to check if the red paint he is using in his bathroom has leaked into her bathroom. Of course it has, and during the many scenes as the whole situation unravels, Bobby returns with his clothing appearing to be even bloodier each time. You can imagine what lunacy that creates with the policemen!
This is the type of show that requires lots of doors in two separate households onstage at the same time with scenes often played in both homes at the same time. Give the small stage space at the Torrance Theater Company, scenic designer Michael Aldapa divided the upstage area into the two separate homes using different colored walls, different telephone tables and phones, and two front doors leading into both homes. What was a bit confusing was the downstage area which was used for both homes at different times or often at the same time, splitting the area in half. After awhile, it because apparent which door led to the kitchen and bathroom in each home and when we were in which home. All that confusion was just part of the fun!
So put your cares aside for a few hours and enjoy the laughter in RUN FOR YOUR WIFE at the Torrance Theatre Company though October 12 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm. There is a performance on Thursday, October 9 at 8 pm which will be followed by a cast and crew Q & A. General Admission: $25. To purchase tickets by phone, call (424) 243-6882. More information online at www.torrancetheatrecompany.com
Photos by Brad La Verne
John Smith (Frank Pepito, on couch) surrounded by people from his double lives
John, his wives, and the policemen trying to figure it all out..
Stanley (Gary Kresca, center) gets caught up in John's double lives.
Amanda Webb, Frank Pepito, Gary Kresca
Frank Pepito, Tim Blake, Jennifer Faneuff