It doesn’t get much more madcap than the antics onstage in Lamb’s Players Theatre’s See How They Run. The title of this farce written by Englishman Philip King in the early ‘40s comes from the nursery rhyme “Three Bllnd Mice,” but it might well describe the cast’s behavior from the get-go. An obvious but often amusing comedy in three quick acts, See How They Run puts its actors through frantic paces – chasing each other from one stage exit to the other, throwing open and slamming closed doors, wrestling on the carpeted floor of what is supposed to be a serene vicarage in fictitious Merton-Cum-Middlewick. In other words, the elegant set (by Mike Buckley) portraying an English country vicarage hall in 1944 becomes a gymnasium.
What a workout it gets. As dueling vicars in clerical collars, the Reverend Lionel Toop (Jason Heil), American soldier in disguise Cliff Winton (Brendan Farley) and a shifty German spy (Jeffery Jones) wield golf clubs, cricket bats and handguns – all in fun – as they play ring around the vicarage at feverish speed because … oh, does it really matter why? Myra McWethy, as the priggish Miss Skillon, gets to get drunk, falling over the sofa in a stupor or sleeping it off behind a closet door. Ida the vicarage maid (Kerry Meads) has the run of the place and makes the most of it, Cockney-ish accent included. Add the free-spirited vicar’s wife, Penelope (Cynthia Gerber), her stuffed-shirt bishop uncle (Jim Chovick) and the redoubtably hilarious Brit Ron Choulartan, as the bumbling legal authority on the premises, and you have mistaken-identity mayhem to spare.
Director Robert Smyth’s choreographing of his cast, which seems to always have someone pratfalling or moving at break-neck speed, boasts more energy than King’s script, the nuts and bolts of which we’ve seen in broad farce many times. See How They Run begins with “See” for a reason: this is a sight-gag comedy first and foremost. In that vein, the sight of four clergymen on stage at the same time, in Act 3, will be enough to terrify anyone who has a guilty conscience. But like everything else in See How They Run, the reality isn’t reality at all, and only a few of the players are who they seem to be.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat