Jay Allen Sanford 9:45 p.m., May 19
After 20 minutes of Philip King's 1944 farce it's hard to see why it's hailed as a classic. King parcels out information so slowly you'd swear he should've retitled it See How They Walk. The evening looks to be an all-nighter.
It's set in the living room of a British vicarage during World War II. Straight-laced Reverend Toop (Jason Heil) married an American actress (Cynthia Gerber). She wears trousers in public and shocks the neighbors., in particular Miss Skillon (Myra McWethy) the town snoop.
People enter and exit. Minor annoyances surface. And you begin to wonder, "okay, and we're here because...?"
The farce progresses like a train chugging uphill. After it reaches the summit, near the end of Act one, it's Pell Mell Time. An extended chase scene ensues. It's clear that King took his time, early on, to set out booby-traps. He makes effective use of each and every one. It also becomes clear why Michael Frayn called this play the inspiration for his Noises Off.
Toward the end, three men dress as vicars - then four! - all breathless from sprinting across the stage. And three dazed women barely recognize themselves. Seven blind mice, instead of the three in the nursery rhyme.
At times in the Lamb's production the difficulties of doing farce appear. The vocal attack requires clarity and a crisp lightness, like playing an instrument staccato. Anyone moving slower than that clip - or lingering too long on a "moment" - comes across as heavy.
By Act three, these instances are far between. Director Robert Smyth has a knack for orchestrating keen ensemble work. His well-chosen cast performs as if to the track meet-born.
Cynthia Gerber shines as Penelope Troop, the actress (her descent of the stairs on Mike Buckley's set has a pure Hollywood theatricality). Jason Heil, Brendan Farley, Ron Choularton, and Jeffrey Jones do the 4 X 100 sprints. Myra McWethy and Kerry Meads earn laughs as Miss Skillon and Ida (one of the world's most put-upon maids).
He only appears in Act three, but Paul Maley makes the most of his role as the Reverend Arthur Humphrey. This sensitive, other-worldly gent soon resembles a China shop battered by bulls in mid-stampede.
Amid the antics King was making a point about life going on even in war-torn England. On opening night the Germans added a reminder. Three V-1 rockets exploded near the theater.