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Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre opens it’s 2016 season with Ray Cooney’s fast-paced PG-13 farce, Run For Your Wife. Directed by J.R. Stuart, this 1983 play tells the story of one John Smith, a London taxi driver whose life resembles a Gordian knot as he works through the situation of having two wives – one in Wimbledon and the other in Streatham. All goes well enough until his rescue of an elderly woman who was being mugged by a couple of thugs. These heroics get him both notoriety and a head wound, causing him much stressful and unwanted attention. His life and the lives of many of those around him spin out of control in a mostly hilarious scenario which gets more and more complicated with every turn.

Eddie Curry (center) plays John Smith who has 2 wives - Barbara, played by Erin Cohenour (left) and Mary, played by Sarah Hund (right).

Eddie Curry (center) plays John Smith, who has 2 wives – Barbara, played by Erin Cohenour (left) and Mary, played by Sarah Hund (right).

B&B mainstay Eddie Curry plays the put-upon Mr. Smith, with B&B theatre regulars Jeff Stockberger, Sarah Hund and Erin Cohenour taking the roles of his neighbor – Stanley Gardner, wife #1 – Mary Smith and wife #2 – Barbara Smith, respectively. This core group is joined by A.J. Morrison as Streatham Detective Sgt. Troughton and Adam O. Crowe as Wimbledon Detective Sgt. Porterhouse. Add to that – Sean Blake as feistily queenish neighbor Bobby Franklyn, and Antonio LeRoy King, who briefly appears as a newspaper reporter.

As in any farce, the stage is equipped with assorted doors for the constant coordinated entrances and exits. This time the actors work on a uniquely conceived design where both Smith households use the same set, with two telephones and two differing drape colors being the only visual delineations. (This actually works quite well, and is set in the audience’s mind in the first scene.) Also, as in most farcical stage journeys, this story comes loaded with mistaken identities and misunderstandings. Indeed, it is at times more tangled than a cup of noodles.

Jeff Stockberger (left) appears as Stanley Gardner, a neighbor to John Smith, played by Eddie Curry (right).

Jeff Stockberger (left) appears as Stanley Gardner, a neighbor to John Smith, played by Eddie Curry (right).

Curry is marvelous as the bigamist Smith, using a full range of witty reactions and frenzies. With much of the play having a break-neck pace, his clamorous, humorous style shines, while still giving plenty of room to his on-stage cohorts to do their thing. Curry’s efforts are nicely balanced by the rubbery physicalities of Jeff Stockberger – a performer who has the rare ability to put a funny spin on lines that have no apparent humor to them at all. His energetic Gardner is a fine vehicle for his gifts – the topper being one highly original bit involving a newspaper and a familiar piece of big-top music. (It must be seen to be fully appreciated.)

Ms. Hund is in great form as the usually demure wife #1. Her climb into stark comic hysteria is well measured and expertly conveyed. Ms. Cohenour’s sultry wife #2 takes a different route altogether – trying to get her way with divine promises and winding up in a most tempestuous state. Ms. Cohenour is more than up to the task, creating her own set of feverish tensions onstage. Mssrs. Morrison and Crowe are steady and solid as the two police detectives. Their roles early on are mostly to add to the plot’s knots, but they make the most of their later opportunities to cavort in the mayhem.

Det Sgts Porterhouse and Troughton (played by Adam O. Crowe (left) and A.J. Morrison.

Det Sgts Porterhouse and Troughton (played by Adam O. Crowe (left) and A.J. Morrison.

Sean Blake is over-the-top of the top with his Bobby Franklyn. This obviously sexually liberated gent is in turn campy, naughty, rim shot comedic and glamorous. It is a wild combination and Blake seems to be having the best time of all the cast in his rendering of this dynamic character.

Sean Blake goes all out in his portrayal of neighbor, Bobby Franklyn.

Sean Blake goes all out in his portrayal of neighbor, Bobby Franklyn.

The play, with all this highly charged fun, is certainly entertaining, well acted and tightly directed, although I give higher marks to the first act than to the second – my reason being that the story itself becomes such a web of complicated lies and confusion, I briefly lost the handle of the thing. (Though I realize this might be only me, alone in a drift of confusion.) Regardless – it is worthy fare and is unquestionably a strong start to B&B’s new season, which includes Guys and Dolls, Beauty and the Beast and Into the Woods, among others.

Chef Odell’s buffet is pleasing, as is usual, and I am always impressed by the energetic and watchful staff who make any visit to Beef and Boards such an enjoyable treat.

Run For Your Wife continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through February 7th. Show times and reservations can be obtained at http://www.beefandboards.com or by calling 317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry
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