A fine production of Ray Cooney's British comedy, "Out of Order," is currently on stage at the Spotlighters Theatre through May 3.
Directed with a broad but deft, farcical hand by local actor Mike Moran, this mad mix-up of politics and adultery spoofs English parliamentary procedures and takes amusing pot shots at former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Cooney is the contemporary master of the farce who employs all the elements of this ancient art form. In "Out of Order," several doors and a window provide fast exits and entrances for the many eccentric characters. There is the usual comic routines of mistaken identities as well as a presumed dead body that seems to get up and walk away by itself.
The action takes place one summer evening in a fashionable London hotel. Richard Willey, a member of Parliament and a married man, is meeting a young, married secretary (employed at the House of Commons) for an amorous liaison.
As the esteemed statesman begins to shed his clothes and the shapely young woman, Jane Worthington, does the same, their ardor is quickly cooled by the discovery of a "dead body" caught in the hotel suite window.
The police cannot be called for obvious reasons. Complications arise when Willey's unworldly secretary, George Pigden, a devoted mama's boy, arrives on the scene. Soon poor, naive George becomes the scapegoat of Willey's irresponsible behavior. Willey moves George into another suite and Jane poses as George's wife.
A sleazy waiter takes advantage of the situation and
agrees to help for a price . . . then another price . . . then another price . . . and so on. Ronnie, Jane's irate husband (prone to tears), traces her to the hotel.
Willey cunningly sends him over to George's suite. George's mother keeps calling. Willey's wife shows up and later so does the nurse caring for George's hypochondriac mother. George, thinking he will shock them both into leaving, says he is going to make mad, passionate love to each. To his surprise they both leap into his arms.
The "dead body" revives but has amnesia. Adding to the turmoil is a dizzy Spanish maid who cannot speak a word of English. She keeps popping in. The rigidly proper English hotel manager gradually becomes manic at the unseemly behavior of his guests and threatens to throw them all out.
Farce is the most difficult of the comedic forms. In this age-old slapstick style, the actor's movements have to be carefully choreographed. Lines have to be properly executed to assure the proper reaction from the audience. One false slip and the timing imperative to comedy is thrown off.
On opening night at the Spotlighters, the first act went pretty smoothly. The second act was unevenly paced due to some technical failures. Overall, Moran has done an excellent job of staging Cooney's zany work. The pace and timing is fast and furious and Moran has added a lot of neat comic touches.
Rodney Atkins is Willey. Although he does a credible job, the actor still has to react physically faster and respond more broadly to the crazy situations. As the suspense mounts, Atkins' character must become more frazzled -- to the point of near hysteria.
Roger Buchanan is outstanding as George. His horrified reactions and frantic attempts to straighten things out make for a major part of the comedy.
Karl Otter also turns in an outstanding performance as the outraged hotel manager and Kevin Walsh is most amusing as the sobbing, self-pitying Ronnie,
Kristina Walsh is first-rate as Ronnie's cheating wife and Eva Jean Berg is very funny as the confused Spanish maid.
John Compher is very funny as the greedy waiter and Maria-Helena Diaz shines in the role of George's mother's nurse suddenly freed by great passion. Anne Pardoe in the small role of Willey's wife does nicely.
In the arduous role of the bemused and befuddled "dead body," Wayne Marlow delights.