Pajama party

Move Over Mrs. Markham

Rated 3.0

Smart eyes will sense it the moment they see the set—a comfortable-looking London flat with six (count ’em) doors (just right for slamming), a long, comfy couch (just right for kissing), and—most prominent of all—a b-i-g oval bed. It can only mean one thing … a British sex farce.

And that’s exactly what Move Over Mrs. Markham is, replete with ringing phones and misplaced love notes, a well-stocked liquor cabinet, multiple levels of amorous deceit and numerous characters in pajamas (or brightly colored underwear) trying desperately to hide when they’re caught unawares.

You know the formula—what’s interesting is the personnel. The director is Jack Lynn, a British gentleman who’s something of a patriarch on the local theater scene. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art some 60 years ago and he’s been involved in a number of Shakespeare productions locally in recent years.

And in the title role is Claire Lipschultz, a capable actress more customarily found in serious contemporary plays, or a Chekhov classic such as Three Sisters. But, in this one, she’s dressed in a bathrobe and grinning from ear to ear as she pursues her intended conquest round-and-round that oval bed.

Others in the cast include the energetic Scott Adams as a highly strung interior designer—unlike the popular stereotype for the profession, he’s very much interested in the opposite sex. Paul Fearn and John Rambo do a sort of straight-man-and-Don-Juan routine as a pair of small-time publishers specializing in children’s books. Patty Thiel does a nice turn as the eccentric middle-aged author whose unexpected entry into the story throws the multiple intended trysts into complete pandemonium.

In a show like this, timing counts for a great deal. And director Lynn’s timing is pretty good. The show is a trifle slow out of the gate, but gradually gathers momentum over the first half, and then hits a full boil after intermission. There’s both visual and verbal innuendo, and the chaos in the second half (as most of the characters pretend to be someone else … we won’t even try to explain why … ) is handled crisply. Misunderstandings and false assumptions are nicely layered.

Lynn also doesn’t press his actors to adopt British accents—a wise move, since fake accents generally mar this sort of production.

John Drew (set/lighting designer) works in some lovely details. There’s even a doorbell that chimes out “Hail Britannia.”

The script (by Ray Cooney and John Chapman) has been a standard at dinner theaters and comedy houses for years, and it’s well suited to the ambience at Garbeau’s, which has put together several attractive shows on the light side over the past year under artistic director Barbara Valente. (Look for her to bring back last year’s popular revue Forever Plaid in November).