AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Philip King
Directed by Ron Lopez Jr.
Presented by Hillbarn Theatre
1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA / (650) 349-6411

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Mistaken identities, chases and a closet for hiding all contribute to the laughs in "See How They Run," a 1940s British farce presented by Hillbarn Theatre.

Playwright Philip King set the play (later made into a movie) in the vicarage of the fictional village of Merton-cum-Middlewick. The action takes place over the course of one afternoon and evening, starting with the arrival of the village gossip, Miss Skillon (Helen Laroche), who complains to the Rev. Lionel Toop (Taylor J. Smith) about the conduct of his wife, former actress Penelope Toop (Maureen O'Neill). In short order, Penelope herself appears, as does the couple's Cockney maid, Ida (Lauren Rhodes).

After her husband leaves for the evening, Penelope receives an unexpected visitor, Cpl. Clive Winton (Adam Magill), an American soldier stationed nearby. The two are old friends, having appeared together in a long-running production of "Private Lives." They decide to go see a performance of the Noel Coward play at a nearby village, but Clive can't be seen there in his uniform. Therefore, he changes into one of Lionel's suits, complete with clerical collar.

By the time the play ends, there are four men in clerical garb, including Clive, Lionel, the visiting Rev. Arthur Humphrey (Scott Solomon), and an escaped Russian spy (Dominic J. Falletti). Trying to restore some sort of order are Penelope's uncle, the Bishop of Lax (Scott Stanley), and a police officer, Sgt. Towers (Robert James Fairless). There's far more reason for hilarity and confusion what with Miss Skillon getting drunk on cooking sherry and Lionel running around in his underwear, but suffice it to say that all gets sorted out at the end.

Director Ron Lopez Jr. has assembled a talented group of actors who create believable characters with sharp comic timing. This latter quality is especially notable since the reviewed performance was the preview, which usually is the last best chance for the cast and crew to make sure everything's running smoothly. The only problem during this performance was that some of the actors, including Magill as Clive and Smith as Lionel, became too shrill. Since the director was in the audience taking notes for the cast, one assumes this problem will work itself out in subsequent outings.

The handsome set is by Robert Broadfoot, who also did the lighting. The period costumes are by Shannon Maxham with sound by Valerie Clear. Greg Sudmeier composed some of the music.

Nevertheless, the show was most enjoyable with lots of laughs. Even though it's three acts with two 10-minute intermissions, the show clocked in at a crisp 135 minutes.

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