Doors to slam? Check. Philandering husband? Check. Mistaken identities? Check. Scantily clad young lady? Check—and check. And a poor schlemiel caught in the middle of it all? Check.
Hedgerow is spending yet another summer with British master farceur Ray Cooney—and his sometime collaborator, John Chapman. This time they’ve gone back to an early play in the pair’s repertoire: NOT NOW, DARLING, which the two wrote in 1967. Personally, I don’t think the script is as well crafted as their later works, but there are enough laughs to keep audiences entertained. Let’s face it, these opuses aren’t meant to be “great theatre…”
NOT NOW, DARLING takes place in the 4th floor salon of London furriers Bodley, Bodley & Crouch, where the uber-shy Arnold Crouch just wants to spend time with his furs. His partner, Gilbert Bodley, has other ideas as he drags Arnold into his scheme to gift his mistress with an expensive fur—but make her husband think they’re getting a terrific bargain. And things spin out of control from there.
I won’t delve too much into the plot because a) it’s very convoluted and b) it doesn’t really matter. The point is to have fun. And the Hedgerow cast is doing just that. Director Jared Reed is helming his 7th of these summer romps, and he excels at keeping the pace going at a whirlwind speed. Reed has a real affinity for comedy—and farce in particular. He”gets” that the actors have to be real people reacting to unreal circumstances in believably funny ways.
Long-time Hedgerow company members Zoran Kovcic and Susan Wefel are on hand—having appeared in all of the previous ten Cooney farces. Kovcic is the beleaguered Arnold Crouch and he has perfected playing these nebbishy roles. His sad-sack expressions are hilarious and his mooning after Mahogany Walker’s Miss Tipdale is a hoot as well. Ms. Wefel is Maude Bodley, the clueless wife of Crouch’s partner. She breezes in during the hijinks, having come back two weeks early from holiday, and is completely snowed by her husband’s lies. Wefel seems to love these roles as an uptight Brit.
Guest Artist John D. Smitherman plays Gilbert with a great deal of flair. Smitherman is a new face to me—and I think to Hedgerow audiences as well—but I hope we see more of him in the future. He has a wonderful stage presence and is quite nimble at the physical comedy also. Company member Rebecca Cureton is spending her second summer in her dainties. The comely Ms. Cureton plays the object of Gilbert’s affections, Janie McMichael. Cureton nails the self-centered sexpot aspects of the role—and yet manages to make the audience like her. Not an easy task. As her unsuspecting husband, Harry, Dave Polgar is back for his 3rd run at Cooney. He does a great job as a stuck-up businessman who balks at getting a fur coat for even as low as 500 pounds. But, he has a surprise in store for us….
Along comes Lauren Thomas as the lovely Sue Lawson—Harry’s secretary/mistress! And, of course, she soon winds up in her undies as well. Ms. Thomas is adorable as she cuddles up to Harry. As the frazzled company secretary, Miss Tipdale, we have the aforementioned Mahogany Walker, who’s kept running thither and yon as she tries to help Mr. Crouch keep things going. Ms. Walker is another newcomer to Hedgerow that I hope we get to see more of as well; her byplay with Kovcic is a hoot.
Rounding out the cast, we have Sue Tiedeck and Jim Conte as a wealthy couple who keep missing each other as they attempt to meet up at the salon and Jonny Long as the husband of Harry’s secretary. Tiedeck and Conte have totally captured the attitude of stuffy upper class Brits and Long is great as the gruff Cockney mechanic married to a young lady who apparently wants more out of life. There were a few opening night fumbles, but I’m sure this cast will get even funnier as the run progresses.
All of this plays out on Kovcic’s suitably elegant set in shades of pink, white and taupe. We have three doors to be run thru—and slammed. And a balcony to toss things from. John Tiedeck has provided a great soundscape and solid lighting to the proceedings and Cathy Miglionico has dressed everyone in wonderful 60s attire. The program makes a point of noting that the furs used are not real—so PETA, no need to worry.
If you’re looking to beat the heat with some escapist fare—and have a good laugh while you’re at it—you can’t go wrong with a Hedgerow Cooney farce. But these annual productions are hugely popular, so performances tend to sell out quickly. You’re gonna want to hurry and make your reservation.
NOT NOW, DARLING
By Ray Cooney & John Chapman
Directed by Jared Reed
July 5—August 12, 2012
64 Rose Valley Road