British comedy offers up laughs at Coach House
|From left, Scott Shriner, Kyra Kelley and Joe Pine share a scene in Coach House Theatre’s “Move Over, Mrs. Markham."|
|Photo: Scott Custer|
But writers Ray Cooney and John Chapman almost killed the Coach House audience with laughter with their show “Move Over, Mrs. Markham,” which opened in London in 1971. Cooney and Chapman are best known for the play and the movie “Not Now, Darling.”
Philip Markham (Scott Shriner) and his business partner, Henry Lodge (Joe Pine), publish children’s books. Markham and his wife, Joanna (Holly Humes), live in a flat above the publishing offices. The Markhams plan to attend a publisher’s dinner, and each has agreed to permit a friend to meet a lover in their flat while they are absent. However, the friends are Linda Lodge (Leah Frires) and Henry Lodge, a married couple looking for new adventures. No one seems to realize that Sylvie (Tess Burgler), the maid, has planned a liaison with her boyfriend, Alistair Spenlow (Daniel Rylander), as soon as the Markhams leave.
The Markhams decide to skip the dinner and stay home. But, they don’t get around to telling their friends who are meeting their lovers in the Markham flat. This nonsense results in people taking on different identities, challenging their lovers and spouses, and causing chaos.
Into this sexy mixture comes Olive Harriet Smythe (Dede Klein) the best-selling children’s book writer in the world. Smythe wants to change publishers because her former publisher has created an atmosphere that is “too sexy.” Klein is at the top of her comedic abilities as she discusses her “Bow-Wow” book series.
The program includes a definition of farce: “a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect.” This definition is matched by the plot and characters in this play.
Mrs. Markham attempts to play the straight character — the character who sets a standard of normalcy against which we compare the other characters. But the playwrights won’t let her escape from the bedroom farce and quickly get her involved in the quirky plot.
This is a large cast for a farce that demands a great deal of physical comedy. But director Terry Burgler keeps the characters well-defined and focused on their wants and needs. Burgler helps his actors play the show straight, which means the humor becomes all the more exaggerated.
The playwrights, who have received a great deal of recognition in England, have created comic madness that’s not to be missed.
Shriner, once again, plays befuddled. But he does it better than anyone in Akron.
Humes slowly evolves her character from normalcy to madness in a sexy red gown.
Pine attempts to keep his wife at a distance so that he can meet with Miss Wilkinson (Kyra Kelley). But, of course, things become complicated and Miss Wilkinson gives all of her underwear to Mr. Markham.
If you want to understand this, you need to call 330-434-7741 and make a reservation.
Don’t worry and don’t be a prude, the excellent cast and director work with their playwrights to create a silly, memorable evening in the Coach House Theatre.
David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
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