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Move Over Mrs. Markham

There is something wonderfully quaint and cute about the way our English-speaking neighbors across the pond relate to sex. Perhaps the secret lies in the relative formality of their everyday social intercourse, which resembles America in the '50's and '60's, when puritanical conscience met the sexual revolution and women's liberation.

Haley Johnson as Joanna Markham and Robert Kramer as Philip Markham
Haley Johnson
as Joanna Markham
and Robert Kramer
as Philip Markham
In this fun effort from Miners Alley Playhouse, director Rick Bernstein keeps Ray Cooney and John Chapman's zany script moving apace through Richard H. Pegg's inviting set, which integrates five entrances to the living room and bedroom of a flat belonging to Philip (Robert Kramer) and Joanna Markham (Haley Johnson), children's book publishers.

Philip, like so many suspicious males, is led astray by some casual and guilty-conscience-fueled observations, in this case from his publishing partner, Henry Lodge (Verl Hite), who, in response to a chance encounter with an excerpt from an errant love note, tells Philip that Joanna must be having an affair.

Leslie Randle-Chapman as Linda, Verle Hite as Henry, and Haley Johnson as Joanna
Leslie Randle-Chapman as Linda,
Verle Hite as Henry,
and Haley Johnson as Joanna
Little does Henry know that the note was written to his own wife, Linda (Leslie Randle-Chapman), who, fed up with his regular indiscretions, solicited it from a suitor, Walter Pangbourne (Mike Pearl), planning their first assignation. After reading and discussing the note with Joanna, Linda had carelessly left behind one of the pages in the flat. Henry's imaginative interpretation of the incomplete evidence leads the guileless, bookish Philip into a maelstrom of dark thoughts.

As with all well-constructed farces, Cooney and Chapman leverage a misunderstanding into a variety of embarrassing juxtapositions and, despite an overreliance on mistaken identities for laughs, a few extended, exceptionally clever double-entendres that bring down the house.

My favorite was the conversation between Philip and the attractive Miss Wilkinson (Heather Schroeder), where Philip thinks he's pretending to be Henry negotiating a contract with the famous author Harriet Olive Smyth (Jan Cleveland), while Miss Wilkinson thinks she's negotiating the terms of the tryst that she and Henry have plotted over the phone, without ever having met. It's a titillating sequence that leaves everyone wondering "what if "

Laura Jo Trexler as Sylvie and Christian Mast as Alistair
Laura Jo Trexler as Sylvie
and Christian Mast as Alistair
At the center of the four separate and potentially overlapping affairs is the calm but determined presence of Johnson's Mrs. Markham, who, after being disparaged by her sexually repressed husband, Philip, finds some oats to sow in the form of her deceptively swishy interior decorator, Alistair Spenlow (Christian Mast), whose mutual attraction with the hot Swedish maid, Sylvie Hauser (Laura Jo Trexler), also awaits consummation.

As you can imagine, the actors have great fun with the delicious possibilities, which come to a head in the uproarious final scene where, in classical comedic fashion, order is restored to status quo ante, with some important lessons learned. How can such frivolous extracurricular activities turn out to be so moral?

Miners Alley Playhouse's production of Move Over Mrs. Markham runs through May 31st. 303-935-3044.

Bob Bows

 

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