In North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre’s uproarious community-theater production of British playwright Ray Cooney’s sensational sex farce Run for Your Wife, taxi driver John Smith (guest director Nick Karner) bravely stops his cab to rescue a little old lady from a curbside mugging by a couple of real villains, and gets clobbered over the head with the victim’s handbag for his efforts. When he finally comes to his senses, he finds himself a dazed and confused Good Samaritan, in the hospital with his head bandaged, and under an informal but incisive interrogation by a Detective Sergeant Troughton (Mike Anderson). But the concussion that Smith got because (as Clare Boothe Luce used to quip), “No good deed goes unpunished,” is the least of his problems.
Smith’s cushy double life as the bigamous husband of Barbara Smith (Chris Farrell) in Stretham and Mary Smith (Elizabeth Barfoot) in Wimbleton is in danger of imploding as Detective Sergeant Troughton keeps digging, digging, digging into Smith’s background and inadvertently exposing the lies with which Smith has deceived his two wives for years.
Nick Karner, who doubles as the show’s director and its increasingly frantic anti-hero, does a fine job in both of those roles. He not only elicits crisp comic characterizations from his cast, but he milks this convoluted script for all the laughs it contains.
Karner gives a highly amusing performance as John Smith, who digs himself deeper and deeper hole with every lie he tells to his wives, his talkative upstairs neighbor and friend Stanley Gardner (Carroll Credle), chance acquaintances such as Barbara Smith’s new upstairs neighbor Bobby Franklyn (David Corns) and nosy reporter/photographer (John Farrell), and especially Detective Sergeant Troughton and Detective Sergeant Porterhouse (Mikey West).
Nick Karner also co-designed the show’s splendid set, with technical directors Mikey West and Mike Anderson. The NRACT set combines the flats of Barbara and Mary Smith in an ingenious way, so that both wives can be onstage—even side by side—simultaneously without ever running into each other or leaving their separate sections of southwest London.
Elizabeth Barfoot is terrific as poor gullible Mary Smith, who definitely picked the wrong bloke for her Valentine; and Chris Farrell is very funny as the oversexed and increasingly suspicious Barbara Smith, who eventually tires of her husband blowing smoke up her skirt.
Carroll Credle is a stitch as Stanley Gardner, the well-meaning neighbor who becomes the object of all sorts of indignities as John Smith involves him deeper and deeper in his desperate attempt to keep his twin marriages secret. Mike Anderson and especially Mikey West are royally entertaining as two earnest but not particularly quick-witted detectives who tumble to Smith’s massive deception a bit too late to avoid embarrassment, David Corns adds an amusing cameo as Barbara Smith’s flamboyantly gay upstairs neighbor, and John Farrell is good in his brief bit as a conniving member of the Fourth Estate who takes advantage of the confusion to wiggle his way into Mary Smith’s apartment to snap a front-page photo that, unbeknownst to him, will cinch John Smith’s exposure as a bigamist.
Run for Your Wife is a fine piece of community theater. It will help put the North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre on the Triangle’s theatrical map.
North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre presents Run for Your Wife Friday-Saturday, Feb. 17-18 and 24-25, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 19 and 26, at 3 p.m. in the Greystone Village Shopping Center, 7713-51 Leadmine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $10-$12 evening and $8 matinee. 919/866-0228. North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre: http://www.nract.org/ [inactive 4/08]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=7678.