It was a cold and drizzly spring night as I headed for Boise Little Theater to see one of the final dress rehearsals of the Philip King comedy See How They Run. The silly British show is so drenched in the sunshine of laughter that I almost forgot my umbrella when I went back out into the rainy city.
If you prefer a play with a plot this is not for you, but if you like shows based on misunderstandings, mistaken identities, tipsy revelers, Keystone Kops chases and just a hint of naughty relationships, then head for Fort Street and sit back and have your ribs tickled by some of the most skillful comic actors this side of the Snake River.
Director Mike Silva, a frequent director at BLT in the 1970s, has come roaring back with last year's powerful A Man for All Seasons, and will direct next season's opener I Hate Hamlet in September. He has combined some new players with a few familiar ones in a charming mix of vixens and villains at the vicarage. Silva's cast achieves a dizzy pace, which they must to keep this fluffy farce afloat, and the action is constant and strenuous.
One of the most memorable characters is Miss Skillon, the youngest and prettiest sour old maid you'll ever meet. She is portrayed by Marlena Schuricht with mobile eyebrows, hair pulled into a severe bun with knitting needles through it, and pursed lips that seem to have recently sucked on a lemon. Schuricht manages to intrude, insult and become inebriated, all in an afternoon.
What makes her such a cranky complainer is her jealousy toward the Vicar's American wife, the bubbly and beautiful former actress Penelope Toop, played by Buffie Main. Main paints the wife as an histrionic free spirit who has a lot of trouble adjusting to life as a vicar's wife. It's hard to believe even a liberated American woman of the 1940s would flounce into the parlor wearing what looks like a satin slip and a wispy black negligee when a parishioner is there. Of course, Penelope knows and loathes Miss Skillon so it's done for shock and spite.
Vicar Lionel Toop is portrayed with a perfect British accent, a stiff upper lip and a stuffy attitude by David Rose. It's difficult to fathom what attracted this disparate couple to each other, but under all the problems and nonsense, the characters do display a constant affection.
Naturally, there has to be a smart and saucy maid, and Roslin Atley fills the bill nicely as Ida. Atley manages to be limber, shapely and flirtatious, and she certainly knows how to swing her stuff.
However, the real sparks begin to fly and ignite the placid parsonage when Clive, (Christian Shiverick), an old acting partner and boyfriend of Penelope, turns up. They go out on the town and get a bit tight. By the time they return, Penelope's uncle, the Bishop of Lax (Pierce Murphy), has arrived. Then a desperate Russian spy (Marc Marshall) stomps into the picture and we really begin to See How They Run! And run! And run!
When the big, burly police sergeant (Frederic Webb) arrives the action comes to a climax.
Longtime Boise Little Theater veteran, Don Mummert, has a more-than-cameo role as the Rev. Humphries—and he makes the most of it. His precise speech and stunned but rigid control as other ministers and a man in his underwear race by him in the vicarage parlor is hilarious. His character even tries to recite Kipling's "If" as the play's chaos accelerates. Mummert's face is a study when he says, "I was perfectly sane when I came into this house."
The audience may wonder about their sanity by the end of all the madness, that is, if they can stop laughing long enough.
This is the final play in the 2003-04 BLT season and theater officials have announced that some changes have been agreed upon. Each play will return to a three-weekend run of Friday and Saturday the first week; Thursday through Saturday and a Sunday matinee the second week; and Wednesday through Saturday the final week. The Wednesday show will have a 7:30 p.m. curtain and will cost $8. Tickets for the other shows will go up to $10, which is still a very good buy.
See How They Run by Philip King, directed by Mike Silva
May 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22
Boise Little Theater, 100 E. Fort St.
$9 general; students/seniors $7 at matinee
Reservations at 342-5104