Updated: Jun 20
"A show full of sexual innuendo, mistaken identities, deliberate absurdity, with a fast-paced plot."
APA Theatre’s first play of the season was a real farce. In fact, it brought the house down! I’m talking about the well-known British bedroom romp called “Move Over, Mrs. Markham,” a play from the minds of Ray Cooney and John Chapman. The Academy for the Performing Arts in Huntington Beach celebrated their 6th annual Dinner Theatre Fundraiser this past weekend with Jacob Menke again – this time at the helm of “Mrs. Markham.” You might remember his so good “Don’t Dress for Dinner” the previous year?
Menke, already a well-known OC actor and now a rising star Director, is also an APA alumnus and is currently a student at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television. A recent recipient of the LA Scenie Award in Production Design for “Spring Awakening,” Menke has been involved in one way or another in the last five shows at APA, so I doubt if we’ve seen the last of him. As he puts it,” this show is designed to be carefully organized chaos”… and I can definitely vouch for that! The double entendres and dry wit was non-stop riotous fun.
In the world of theatre, a farce is defined as comedy that aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely and improbable situations. It usually includes sexual innuendo, mistaken identities, deliberate absurdity, and a fast-paced plot. In general, the script is written highly tolerant of transgressive behavior and depicts most characters in the plot as vain, irrational, or perhaps neurotic. Mr. Cooney and Mr. Chapman have captured all of these requirements in “Mrs. Markham,” providing a vein for APA’s remarkable new production. Three couples intent on clandestine relationships and disrupting the normally placid upper-middle-class existence of a fourth is the basic structure of the play. Add a totally disconnected but vitally important character, and you have instant chaos and mayhem.
Set in a very elegant top floor London flat which is under renovation, the tangle of misunderstandings begin when Joanna Markham (Isabelle Krajewski) is asked by her friend Linda (the incomparable Kaylie Flowers) if she can use the flat to frolic with her lover Walter (Benjamin Jara) while the Markhams are out. But Linda’s philandering husband Henry (Carson Taylor) persuades Philip (Simon Pike) to let him bring round a new girlfriend, Miss Wilkinson (Megan Michell), that same evening. Confused yet?
Basically, the storyline builds as Mr. Markham suddenly decides not to attend a publishers’ dinner after he and Henry finds the second page of a love letter that he mistakenly assumes belongs to Joanna, his wife of 15 years. Little does Henry know that the note was written to his own wife, Linda, who, fed up with his regular indiscretions, solicited it from her suitor, Walter, and had carelessly left behind one of the pages of the letter in the flat. Henry’s interpretation of the incomplete evidence leads the guileless, bookish Philip into a maelstrom of dark thoughts. Taylor’s character, Henry, presented the very epitome of the English chappie who likes a ‘bit of fun’ and was the backbone of this production.
At the center of our story is the calm but determined presence of Ms. Krajewski’s Joanna, who, after being disparaged by her sexually repressed husband, Philip, finds some oats to sow in the form of her frustrated, swishy interior decorator, Alistair Spenlow (a hilarious Foster Kirkconnell). But Alistair’s mutual attraction with the hot Swedish maid, Sylvie (Isabelle Ucar), also awaits consummation. No, Alistair’s frustrations aren't sexual - they're almost entirely because Joanna's husband Philip refuses to pick a color scheme for his study…it’s complicated.
Amid the extraordinary comings and goings and dressings and undressings in the Markhams’ flat that evening, acclaimed author Olive Harriet Smythe (Chloe Riederich), arrives unexpectedly, hoping to clinch a deal for the sequel to her bestselling series of Bow-Wow books. Ms. Riederich plays the part brilliantly as the dry, hysterical Miss Smythe and becomes the key focus of the script. As you can imagine, the actors have great fun with these delicious possibilities, coming to a head in an uproarious final scene, where, in classic comedic fashion, order is restored to status quo ante, leaving audience heads spinning with laughter.
Refreshingly, Ray Cooney's and John Chapman's delightfully zany script isn't concerned with sociopolitical commentary or vulgar sexploitation, but rather the comical confusion caused by misunderstood intentions and shifting identities. And, the best part - after all the deceptions, conducted with the finest manners that could be managed under the circumstances - no harm is done. Even the philandering Henry and his wife Linda end up on a cheery note.
This was a wonderfully funny piece of excellent ensemble playing. Timing was first rate and the costumes, set and lighting were top-notch. There were also several glorious moments of pure bust-out comedy. The lingerie threaded under the bedroom door, for instance, and the scene where “goosing’” was explained, were among those side-splittingly funny.
As a dinner show, theatre-goers were treated to private tables with five-star quality service, and a six-piece pre-show rock band, consisting of MMET musicians who provided many flashback covers of the 60’s and 70’s and a pretaste of what’s to come in their upcoming The Beatles Story, 1968. Since the time period for the play is set in the 60’s, the band was a real mood setter before the show. Waiters and waitresses were aplenty, and made much effort in making sure catering service was johnny-on-the-spot and “customers” were happy. Additional fundraising was primarily from energetic sales of raffle tickets for group prizes, and, although I never win at any of this, it is always an important activity for covering seasonal expenses for Robert Rotenberry’s theatre department.
ATTENTION: “Move Over, Mrs. Markham’s” running dates were September 6th-9th. But due to complete sell out performances during its first weekend, two encore performances have been added and will be performed in the APA Studio Theater next weekend, although with no pre-show or dinner. Dates are Saturday, Sept. 15 at 7pm and Sunday, Sept. 16 at 2pm. All seating is general admission and all tickets are only $15.
Don't miss this saucy, riotously funny treat. Highly, highly recommended! Get your tickets here: https://hbapa.tix.com/schedule.aspx?orgnum=5645
The Show Report
National Youth Arts