Double-dealing and double lives. That’s the stuff of farce because it leads to mistaking one person or situation for another. In the right hands, serious issues can be turned into laugh-a-minute comedy, and that’s nowhere more apparent than in the well-wrought productions running concurrently at Weathervane Community Playhouse (a Knight Arts grantee) through May 20 and Coach House Theatre through June 3.
In Ray Cooney and John Chapman’s “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” at Coach House Theatre, the situation revolves around the Markham apartment, where live-in maid Sylvie and seemingly resident interior designer Alistair are gearing up for a sexual affair. Add in friends of the Markhams, Linda and Henry Lodge, who want use of the Markham place as they instigate individual affairs of their own. Caught up in all this are Philip and Joanna Markham who, in keeping their friends’ secrets, mistakenly think the other is cheating.
Everyone wants use of the flat at the same time, so there are lots of door-slamming antics and near misses as characters exaggeratedly try to make things go the way they want them to.
Director Terry Burgler’s actors in this production handle sexual tensions (through broad and leering double entendres) and situational anxieties masterfully. Holly Humes (as Joanna Markham) is the comedic lightning rod in the center of the bewilderment that seems to inform everyone else’s behavior. Dede Klein (as Olive Harriet Smythe, a daffy children’s book writer who shows up unexpectedly in the midst of it all) is disarmingly eccentric. Her character lives in her own little made-up world for real.
In Philip King’s ”See How They Run” at Weathervane Playhouse, the low comedy revolves around a plot of “who’s a vicar and who’s not.” Clive, a soldier and past friend of Penelope Toop, dresses in her vicar husband Lionel’s clerical outfit. A Russian spy astray in WWII-torn England steals another suit of Lionel’s and pretends he’s a vicar. In the meantime, a visiting guest vicar (Arthur Humphrey) and Penelope’s uncle, the Bishop of Lax (replete in his vicar gear), show up on the Toop’s doorstep.
The merriment careens around a busybody neighbor and parish member, Miss Skillon, who mistakes every vicar for the only one she knows. The movement continues with lots of door slamming as characters chase one another down, until it all ends with four look-alike vicars sitting in a row while police try to guess who is the Russian spy.
“Move Over, Mrs. Markham” is playing through June 3 at Coach House Theatre, 732 W. Exchange St, Akron; 330-434-7741; www.coachhousetheatre.com. Tickets are $18 for adults; $12 for students.
“See How They Run” is playing through May 20 at Weathervane Community Playhouse, 1301 Weathervane Lane, Akron; 330-836-2626; www.weathervaneplayhouse.com. Tickets are $21.