Polygamy Pratfalls

A cab driver with two separate wives gets a head injury--and then the hilarity ensues

A farce brings a two-hour burst of chaos and anarchy into the theater, but an acting troupe must maintain tight discipline to make the audience think things have hurtled perilously out of control. That's exactly what Live Theatre Workshop accomplishes in its production of Ray Cooney's dizzying Run for Your Wife.

Not quite everything worked perfectly on opening night last weekend; once again, the show fell victim to the LTW curse of the Phone That Doesn't Ring on Cue. Otherwise, though, the cast and first-time director Cliff Madison incited a riot of hilarity, egging each other on with expert timing and comic finesse.

Run for Your Wife begins one tense morning in two flats in the suburbs of London. On the left of a split-screen set (credited to nobody), the distraught Mary Smith paces about and finally calls the police to report her husband, a cab driver named John, missing. Simultaneously, on the right, we see the distraught Barbara Smith pacing about and finally calling the police to report her husband, a cab driver named John, missing. It seems that the perfectly ordinary and unremarkable John Smith is married to two women, each blissfully ignorant of the other's existence.

It turns out that John suffered a slight head injury while helping an old woman fend off some muggers; he was taken to a hospital where, dazed, he gave officials both his addresses. Until now, John has managed to flit from one wife to cab shift to the other wife without missing a step, but his few hours in the hospital have thrown off his entire schedule.

Once John finally makes it home to Mary, he comes clean to his unemployed neighbor, Stanley. To his simultaneous disgust and amusement, Stanley is snagged in John's web of deceit, fielding phone calls from one wife in front of the other, and concocting outrageous lies when two separate police inspectors begin following up on John's ordeal.

John spends the morning rushing between flats, mollifying the increasingly confused and exasperated Mary and stalling the sexually voracious Barbara. Barbara's new upstairs neighbor, the flamboyantly gay Bobby, sashays down to add to the confusion. Without giving away too much of the convoluted plot, suffice it to say that Run for Your Wife revolves around not just the usual farcical conventions of deceit and mistaken identity, but also jumbled sexual identity.

Over the past 20 years or so, the play has been subjected to more laborious, creaky community-theater productions than one would care to count, but Live Theatre Workshop brings the script to life with all the necessary verve.

As John, Jeremy Thompson gets his character just right; this is no scheming lothario, but a completely ordinary, rather cuddly but unremarkable fellow. Thompson makes it clear that John is one of his own most significant victims, which elicits tremendous sympathy from the audience, if not from John's wives.

Kristi Loera is a brittle Mary, expertly and seamlessly moving from mild anxiety to puzzled annoyance to outright hysteria through the course of the play. Holli Henderson is an appealingly kittenish Barbara, although Live Theatre Workshop is beginning to typecast her as something of a nymphomaniac; after Henderson's turn as a gynecological zookeeper in Titanic, no one will ever again be able to take her vagina seriously.

Stephen Frankenfield does some of his best, most complicated comic work so far as Stanley; he's crude but good-natured, and quicker of mind than you'd expect from his slovenly appearance. Roscoe Gaines plays the glittering, flaming Bobby to a T, demonstrating in his third Tucson appearance that he's as adept at broad comic stereotype as he is at more subtle seriocomic roles.

Bruce Bieszki is suitably befuddled as the well-meaning Detective Porterhouse, but the otherwise effective Christopher Johnson seems too young to play the suspicious and abusive Detective Troughton.

Run for Your Wife is like having your head spun around and then finding wedding cake smashed into your face. How often does a play merit a recommendation like that?

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