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The marryin’ kind: cast members of CCT’s Run for Your Wife.

The Escape Artist
By Kathy Ceceri

Run for Your Wife
By Ray Cooney, directed by Philip C. Rice

Curtain Call Theatre, Latham, through Jan. 8

We could probably all use a good escapist comedy right now, which makes Curtain Call Theatre’s latest offering even more welcome this stressed-out time of year. Run for Your Wife is a British-flavored sex farce, plain and simple, the twist being that the lucky chap enjoying extra helpings of romantic attention is so ordinary that he’s actually named John Smith. With a script full of the best sort of dry British wit and a top-rate ensemble of actors, directed with impeccable comedic skill by Philip C. Rice, Run for Your Wife is a lesser-known gem just waiting to be discovered.

Holding the whole thing together is Aaron S. Holbritter as Smith, the hapless taxi driver who more through inertia than stealth has somehow ended up with one wife in Wimbledon and another in Streatham. Smith keeps his double life ticking along smoothly by means of a pocket planner, until a knock on the head throws everything out of whack. When he fails to show up in his usual clockwork-like manner at flat No. 1 at midnight or flat No. 2 at 7, his worried wives ring up their respective police stations, and the chase begins.

Cooney doesn’t make much of either the similarities or the differences in the characters of Barbara Smith (Heather Hewitt) and Mary Smith (Lisa Henderson), other than to make them both nice, ordinary people, whose screams of frustration seem perfectly understandable, given how much they are normally willing to put up with out of faith in their reliable, loving mate. Instead, the playwright saves the best bits of dialogue for the “boys,” chief among them John’s and Mary’s upstairs neighbor Stanley Gardner. Stanley is a layabout pest who’s temporarily unemployed, although he’s thinking of making it permanent—the hours are good. As played by James Disalvatore, Stanley is charming and wry and a good counterpart to the amazingly unflappable Smith, whom he accuses of flitting between his two women “like an oversexed bumblebee.” Stanley is let in on the secret when Smith realizes he has some fast covering up to do, and the pair manage to come up with enough improbable stories to make Lucy and Ethel proud.

Adding to the chaos are Detective Sgt. Troughton (David Edward Campbell) of the Wimbledon CID, who brings the battered Smith home from the hospital and decides to look into some confusion over his actual address, and Detective Sgt. Porterhouse, his counterpart in Streatham, who becomes so wrapped up in the mystery of the two missing Smith reports that he ends up pouring tea and offering marital advice to the lot. Meanwhile, upstairs from John and Barbara, frockmaker Bobby Franklyn is fixing up his new flat and popping in and out to repair the damage he’s caused to the Smith’s apartment below. Director Rice, who stepped in to play Bobby opening weekend (the talented Jeremy Buechner will be taking over for the rest of the run) got some of the biggest laughs of the night, although the sheer volume of pouf jokes struck me as a bit too much for this day and age. My only other complaint is with the set by Malachi Martin. Though functionally designed—an intersection of the two apartments, each half reflecting the other—the decorating scheme was drab without being deliberately so, making it seem less a choice of the characters than of the designer.

In all other ways, though, Run for Your Wife is better than a flu shot for relief from too much reality this season.

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