`Not Now' is a charming blend of talent, silliness

Comedy's mistresses and minks heat up dreary winter nights


February 02, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Timing is everything in show business as the Bowie Community Theatre folks must realize when providing many laughs with the 1960s British farce, Not Now Darling.

In his program notes, Director Bob Sams says Bowie is following an old tradition by "holding off the gloom of cold dark nights with tales of foolishness and humor."

For sure, there's plenty of silliness to revel in with this production.

Written by Ray Cooney and John Chapman, Not Now Darling enjoyed early success in 1968 London and Paris and was a lesser hit on Broadway in 1970.

Almost 40 years later, this old-fashioned comedy filled with suspicious wives, philandering husbands, mistaken identities and scantily-clad girlfriends provides giggles and guffaws in a madcap, Marx Brothers way.

The Bodley, Bodley and Crouch New York Fur Salon -- not the most politically correct location, but appropriate for a winter evening -- is where all the action takes place.

Inside we find straight-laced, hardworking Arnold Crouch (John Parry) struggling to maintain the success of this business despite the womanizing of his business partner, Gilbert Bodley (Jim Estepp), while his wife is away.

Bodley attempts to entice a free-spirited exotic dancer named Janie McMichael (Vickie Hartford) into an assignation by arranging for her husband to give her a $5,000 mink coat for $500. Instead, he finagles an even better deal and buys the fur for his secretary, Angela McLaughlin, (Sue Lawson) -- who returns it.

Company secretary Miss Tipdale (Joanna Tiger) tries her best to keep the business moving amid increasing hilarity. Sue's macho suitor, Mr. Lawson, (Richard Tovish) keeps popping up. Coat model Miss Whittington (LaTashia Byrd) welcomes Bodley's attention. Customer Mrs. Frencham (Barbara Webber) has trouble catching up with her husband (Michael Dunlop), who ends up at the police station. Bodley's wife, Maude, (Marky Regensburg) returns home unexpectedly, creating panic as he tries to shelve his plans with Janie.

Farce is difficult to carry off, dependent on split-second timing and strong ensemble acting. But this 11-member cast accomplishes that -- a feat, considering its somewhat limited rehearsal time.

Parry makes a stunning Bowie debut, proving capable of masterly double takes and skilled at bouncing of lines off fellow actors as the insanity progresses.

Another noteworthy debut is that of Hartford, who plays the seductress Janie with such high spirits and comedic talent that she produces some memorable moments as she tosses pieces of clothing to simulate nudity under her fur coat.

Estepp also proves an amazing find. He gets funnier with every new complication. His energy is wondrous to behold as he surmounts every difficulty while propelled by his over-active libido.

As Maude Bodley, Regensburg rises to the high level of animation that farce demands while creating a believable complex character.

BCT veteran Dunlop delivers his usual thoroughly professional performance here as Mr. Frencham, investing his character with a winning blend of annoyance and incredulity.

Sams, the skilled director, gets able assistance from stage manager Roy Peterson. As always, Garrett Hyde does masterful work as lighting and sound designer.

Performances at the Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park continue through Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. For reservations, call the BCT hot line at 301-805-0219.

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