Regional Reviews: Phoenix
King's play is set in the home of a vicar in a small British village during the 1940s at the time of World War II. The story begins when local busybody Miss Skillon visits the home of Reverend Lionel Toop and his American wife, and former actress, Penelope. The tightly wound Skillon clashes with the free-spirited Penelope. When she sees Penelope reenacting a lover's quarrel scene from Private Lives with her former acting co-star Clive Winton, who is now a corporal and stationed at a nearby army camp and on leave for the night and who has surprised Penelope with a visit, she sets out to expose what she believes is an illicit affair. On top of this there are a colorful group of supporting characters including the Toops' feisty cockney maid Ida and Penelope's uncle the Bishop of Lax, who is coming for an overnight visit and who, of course, just happens to arrive earlier than expected. Add in an escaped German prisoner of war and a few additional comical supporting characters and you end up with a madcap farce with a series of mistaken identities and misunderstandings that overlap and pile up on top of each other until complete lunacy prevails.
While the play takes about 15 minutes to set the scene and introduce the plot and all of the characters, and some of that is a little slow going to completely jell. Once the insanity starts, the punchlines fly and the parade of characters start to run into and out of the Vicar's house, and you truly appreciate how well crafted King's script is. He even adds a fitting coda at the end for a perfectly hilarious punch.
Under Cambrian James' spotless direction, the well-oiled ensemble features wonderful work from Alexis Harris and Vinny Chavez, as Penelope and Clive, and Ami Porter, Matthew Harris and Jacob Goodman as Miss Skillon, the Bishop, and Lionel, respectively, with a breakout Hale debut from Lindsay Hope, who is superb, with excellent comical line deliveries, as the feisty cockney maid. Justin M. Howell, Chuck Green, and Eric Mitchell round out the cast in three smaller, but still very important, roles.
The entire cast are adept at delivering the lunacy and split-second timing the play requires, along with perfectly played facial expressions, double takes, and well delivered punchlines. There is also an abundance of excellently delivered physical comic moments throughout. Two of my favorite scenes feature Porter and Howell. Porter's character is left temporarily knocked out due to a misplaced blow early in the show and she is superb at playing the lifeless character who is hilariously thrown around like a rag doll by just about the entire cast. Howell has a scene in which he has to pretend to be drinking from an imaginary glass of brandy that is superbly directed and acted. Both of these are comic highlights in a show with many of these moments.
Brian Daily's fairly simple and static, but highly effective, set is brightly lit by Jeff A. Davis. Mary Atkinson's costumes are a good combination of period fashions and clerical garb, and James' wig and make-up designs add a nice polished period look to the characters.
See How They Run is a well written comedy and with a firecracker cast and polished direction. Hale's excellent production is first-rate, fresh, funny and entirely delightful.
The Hale Centre Theatre production of See How They Run, through February 10th, 2018, with performances at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert AZ. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling 480-497-1181.
Directed by Cambrian James
Cast: (in order of appearance)