Sometimes American comedies make the mistake of giving away the best joke too soon. How many times have you gone to see a film based on a great preview only to find out the entire film was based on one gag? British comedy doesn't work that way. "Run For Your Wife" may not have you laughing out loud until 20 minutes in but be patient, its all part of the plan. Ala Lucy, London cabbie John Smith (John Messersmith) has some explaining to do. Seeing as he has two wives he decides to lie instead. Everything was going along swimmingly for Smith until he decided to rescue and old lady who was being mugged. A bonk on the head leaves him a bit scatterbrained, and he mistakenly reveals two different addresses to the Wimbledon Police and the local hospital. The mistake lands him at the wrong flat with the wrong wife on the wrong day.
Messersmith offers a calm, understated performance, wisely chosen, which perfectly offsets the zany characters that inevitably get most of the laughs. There is a fine art and a selflessness required to play comedy straight and Messersmith does so with elegance and plenty of charm. The Costello to Messersmith's Abbott is upstairs neighbor, Stanley Gardener, played by Maui newcomer, Jeff Brackett. Brackett is a joy to watch, he is very funny and keeps the farce moving quickly, allowing the laughs to explode. One of my favorite first-act moments was watching the slight Brackett attempt to man handle a mountainous reporter (Jason Strahn). Smith's two wives are sweet and proper, Mary (Hadley Garcia) and hip, sexy, Barbara (Gina Shure). Garcia's evolution from making sandwiches to shrieking and cursing in her underwear is a phenomenal comedic transformation to behold. Another Maui newcomer, Shure, delivers a raw, don't mess with this lady, performance that is equally hysterical.
Detectives Troughton (Jim Oxborrow) and Porterhouse (Derek Nakagawa) off a yin and yang take on police work, although both should be fired in my opinion of investigations. Oxborrow's flustered, no-nonsense approach is even funnier when teamed opposite Nakagawa's apron clad Porterhouse, who is best described as a clueless, happy teddy bear with a badge. At about ten minutes into the second act "Wife" becomes uproarious, as I can only assume author Ray Cooney and director Dale Button intended. The laughs become like waves, sloshing over a row boat that is bound to sink.
“Run For Your Wife” actors Gina Shure (from left), John Messersmith, Jeff Brackett (standing) and Hadley Garcia will perform this weekend in Wailuku.
JACK GRACE photo
When "Wife" works the opening night audience screams in hysterics. Of course comedy is never perfect, and at times the cast slips off the track, but Cooney's script is so clever and fast paced that a new wave of jokes lies just around the corner. For the same reasons its good not to know too much about "Doubt," I don't want to reveal the endless comedy twists and tales of from "Wife," which range from Lofty the transvestite, an "unorthodox" nun, or gay bulls and a jersey cow. "Wife" hits its comedy zenith with one little scene of neighbor Bobby Franklin (Lee Garrow), carrying a bucket of blood across the stage while the rest of the cast just stares. Confused? Don't be, just laugh.
- Michael Pulliam
* "Run For Your Wife," by Ray Cooney, directed by Dale Button continues at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays though Oct. 14 at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating tickets are $15 to $28. Dinner packages available with Bistro Casanova. For tickets or more information call 242-6969 or purchase online at mauionstage.com.