By LIBBY MOTIKA
Circling the News Contributor
Timing, set-up, doors for clandestine entrances and exits, spiraling ruses and whip-smart dialogue add up to essential ingredients for farce. Theatre Palisades’ Run For Your Wife by Ray Cooney, now on stage at Pierson Playhouse, opens in a frenzy with two distraught women waiting for their husbands, who we immediately understand is the same man.
The husband in question is taxi driver John Smith, a simple ordinary man who has managed his double life through clever scheduling–day-shift for one wife, night-shift for the other–until now.
The play takes off when a minor accident the night before lands John in the hospital, upsetting his clever two-timing life. His schedule knocked askew, John is thrown into fabricating more and more absurd ruses to keep his wives happy, and in the dark.
The action takes place simultaneously in the two flats, following John’s squirming slips and slides with each woman, all the while ever more frantic as the knot tightens.
Set designer and director Sherman Wayne has transformed a singular space with four doors into two distinct flats, which the actors navigate expertly to make clear which flat they’re in.
Being a farce, the jokes topple one after another, albeit cornball, yielding outrageous laughter.
John (Christopher Aruffo) is a lovable innocent with heart, which makes him hard to hate as a lying, cheating bigamist. He is ably assisted by the overall superb cast.
Wife number one, Mary (Jill Tenney), while adoring and concerned, comes out swinging when faced with the confusing nonsensical situations perpetrated by others to keep John’s secret. Wife number two, Barbara (Wendy Taubin), on the other hand, is a sexy newlywed, and alas, fatally gullible.
The plot is spurred along with the key role of upstairs neighbor Stanley (Justin Dew), who dutifully bolsters John’s ever-expanding tangle of lies.
Act I is sheer delight, rolling along with John’s pickle, mounting jokes spilling on jokes and pratfalls, all delivered with perfect timing.
By Act II, the conceit is worn out, so the playwright ventured into offensive homophobia, which goes to show how, 40 years after this British farce debuted, things have changed, we hope.
“Run For Your Wife” continues through May 6, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets, contact: (310) 454-1970 or visit theatrepalisades.org.