This British farce doesn't get many laughs Play a weak vehicle for Colonial Players

September 11, 1992|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

I confess at the outset that the madcap British comedies so popular in the Mother Country have never captured my aesthetic heart.

But "See How They Run," the English farce currently on the boards at the Colonial Players of Annapolis strikes me even less favorably than most.

In some of these goofy plays, the viewer might be favored with a smidgen of wit or some feisty word play before staid British clergymen start running across the stage in their underwear.

Theater review

Not here.

In "See How They Run" the humor is entirely situational, with nothing in the way of snappy dialogue or truly funny characters to sustain an interminable first act that begins turgidly and goes downhill from there.

By the time things went off the deep end in Act II, this reviewer was too glazed over with boredom to care.

Someone in the quality control division was asleep at the switch on this one.

The plot, you say?

Penelope Troop, an American-born British actress has returned to England to marry Lionel, the obligatory boring local vicar, much to the dismay of Miss Skillon, the obligatory town gossip and prude.

When Penelope's old acting partner, a U.S. serviceman named Clive Winton, drops in for a surprise visit with Lionel gone, the two decide to go out for a night on the town, but with Clive wearing one of the vicar's vestments to silence any untoward gossip.

When Penelope's uncle, an Episcopal bishop, arrives unexpectedly, the high jinks ensue. Drunkenness, slapstick violence, an escaped Russian spy and one case of mistaken identity after another overwhelm the vicarage till play's end.

Sigh.

Actually there are some good performances to report despite the weaknesses of the vehicle.

In her Colonial Players debut, Mary Groom is quite good as Penelope. Attractive and energetic in all she does onstage, Ms. Groom is fun to watch as her frustration builds and builds.

Alas, Penelope is not fed many funny lines (nor is anyone else), so the actress' efforts don't translate into very much laughter.

Anita Gutschick is quite hysterical as the drunken Miss Skillon. With hair askew and legs wobbling every which way, her rendition of the boozing busybody is great fun.

But before she goes tipsy, Miss Skillon is a complete bore. Ms. Gutschick makes her prissy but not very much fun and her lack of exaggerated indignation is one of the things that makes Act I as uneventful as it is.

Priscilla Schneider earns many well-deserved chuckles as Ida, the flirtatiously ditzy maid who brightens up the proceedings considerably when she is around. Unfortunately, it's a bit part.

Walter League, always an ingratiating presence onstage, does his best to make the American soldier interesting, but his character is ultimately clobbered by the pitiful script.

"You know what they say," he comments at one point. "One man's pajamas is another man's nightshirt." Honest.

Jay Philon is adequate -- nothing more -- as the Rev. Lionel Troop. He projects agreeably enough, but his vocal inflections are far too repetitious to engender humor and his English accent isn't close.

(He has lots of company on that score, however.)

The supporting cast does well enough but, ultimately, there is too little play to support them.

This one is for devout Anglophiles and dyed-in-the-wool Colonial Players fans only.

But then again, one man's boredom is another man's hilarious farce, I suppose.

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