Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"See How They Run" at Theatre Conspiracy in Fort Myers

Each week I pore through the Arts section of "Florida Weekly" looking for things to do that pique my interest.  Theater is always high on my list, but I somehow didn't get to any productions put on over the winter months by the Theatre Conspiracy in Fort Myers.  I rectified that situation last week-end when I went to see their production of "See How They Run", and I will definitely be going back.

The Theatre Conspiracy is housed in the Lee County Alliance for the Arts (so it's a "twofer" since you have the chance to view their current exhibit as well.) It is an intimate space, seating about 150 people. I arrived early because my $18 ticket gained me general admission and I wanted to make sure I got a good seat.  I was glad I did because this revival ended up being close to sold out.

"See How They Run" is a farce that was first performed in the West End of London in 1945.  The story is way too convoluted to explain but involved a bunch of vicars, a former American actress who is now married to one of the vicars, an American soldier, a drunken parishioner, an Irish maid, and an escaped Russian convict.  (One definition of "farce" is a "play based on the exploitation of improbable situations" so you can see that this cast of characters fits the bill.)  In many ways it was a standard farce with an extended (quite hilarious) scene with people running in and out of the room, mistaken identities and a terrific take on the Abbott & Costello "Who's on first?" routine (which coincidentally was introduced in their "Naughty Nineties" film that came out in 1945).  It reminded me in many ways of some Noel Coward plays that I've seen and which I count among my favorite Broadway experiences.  In fact, playwright Philip King more than tipped his hat to Coward with the play's subplot (using the term loosely) of the American actress and the American soldier being acquainted from when they performed in a USO production of Coward's "Private Lives."  (As an aside, I saw "Private Lives" on Broadway with Alan Rickman of "Diehard" fame and Lindsay Duncan playing the divorced couple honeymooning with their new spouses at the same hotel and it was quite enjoyable.)   One particularly clever--and again, hilarious--moment in the play came when, in the midst of the chaos, a vicar was asked to do a recitation and chose Rudyard Kipling's "If" which begins, "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...."  Brilliant!   All in all, it was a very satisfying way to spend my Sunday afternoon.

Theatre Conspiracy is in its 17th season and its mission is to "produce and promote the work of the next generation of talented American playwrights."  Each year it runs a New Play Contest, and this past year it fielded close to 300 entries from fledgling playwrights.  The play that is selected becomes part of the next season's line-up, and Paul Lawrence's "Cynthia's Lament," a story about a successful male romance novelist who pretends to be a woman, sounds like it was quite funny and very well-received.   In early July, Theatre Conspiracy will host three evenings of readings of plays on next season's schedule that interested theatergoers can attend for $5 a pop.  I'm almost sorry that I will have escaped the summer heat by then.  It would be great fun to "see" a play go from this early iteration to a full production.   Suffice it to say that this is one conspiracy that I will be a full participant in going forward. 

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