''See How They Run'' hardly seems the kind of play the Olney Theater might use as its season opener.
This is, after all, a very slight farce, a thing of mistaken identities. This is the sort of comedy the English are so fond of, but which has great trouble crossing the ocean to this country. When they end up here, it's usually as dinner theater.
"See How They Run," however, is a good choice, even though things may not look very promising initially. There are few laughs, and nothing really seems to be working. A half hour later, however, everything moves into place, the laughs begin, and they don't end until the performance is ended, two hours later.
The play was written in 1945 by Philip King, who wrote some 28 comedies, most of them similar to this.
"Run" did well in England, then in 1964 was revived with King playing the Bishop of Lax, a visitor to a vicarage inhabited by a man married to an American actress. Before long, she and her husband are visited by an American soldier who had toured in ''Private Lives'' with the vicar's wife.
In a plot device too silly to belabor, the soldier finds himself wearing one of the vicar's suits, and before long, there are two more men dressed as vicars, one of whom is a ''commie spy.''
In the original version, the Russian was an escaped German prisoner, but with the passage of time, his identity was changed, and that's good, because as Tony Rizzoli plays him, he is immensely funny.
Jonathan Bustle is the residing vicar, Marguerite Kelly is thmaid, Joan Rosenfels is a prissy parishioner, Sherry Skinker is the vicar's wife, Eric Pierpoint is the soldier, Terrence Currier is The Bishop of Lax, Patrick Kerr is Arthur Humphrey, a visiting vicar -- a real one -- and Arthur Laupus is the policeman who attempts to make something of this mess.
Kerr does some very funny physical things as Humphrey, and Pierpoint does the same as the soldier. Actually, all the players do well eventually, particularly when they are running about the stage, jumping over bodies and slamming doors.
''See How They Run'' will continue at the Olney through May 26. If the Olney producers were looking for something suitable for the entire family, this is it. Bill Graham Jr. did the nimble direction.
''See How They Run''
** A real vicar, two impostors and a bishop run about a vicarage.
CAST: Jonathan Bustle, Terrence Currier, Marguerite Kelly, Patrick Kerr, Arthur Laupus, Eric Pierpoint, Tony Rizzoli, Joan Rosenfels, Sherry Skinker.
DIRECTOR: Bill Graham Jr.
RUNNING TIME: Two hours with one intermission
! TICKETS: 924-3400