Entertainment News Theatre — 16 June 2011
British slapstick keeps ‘the pecker up’

If you want to know how a little white lie can spark full-blown, sexually charged mayhem just ask the well-meaning Mrs. Markham.  Shes the full-time referee in this flat-out crazy British farce onstage at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.  

You might inquire of her childrens book publisher husband, Philip Markham, so squeamishly prim he spells out the word S-E-X, or their flashy playboy decorator, Alistair Spenlow, whose sexuality is in question until cleared up to everyones satisfaction up by the remark: Hes not gay.  He plays golf.
 Of course the audience has already seen him lusting after Sylvie, the Swedish sexpot housekeeper, who has her own liberated ideas of flirtation.  

I do the goose quite well! she attests while imitating his antics.

If you want proof of how a petite prevarication can morph into a series of whoppers, witness the Markhams friends, Henry and Linda Lodge, and their prospective paramours, Miss Wilkinson, the vixen telephone operator, and Walter Pangbourne, the ambitious salesman, as they plan to cheat on each other in the same house on the same night.  

Its a carousel of bed-hopping worthy of Bob&Carol&Ted&Alice. 

Move Over, Mrs. Markham draws on the same tradition as the screwball Britcoms, Keeping Up Appearances and Are You Being Served?  

You can count on the characters to be chockfull of malapropos, double entendres and skewed intentions. Thankfully, the playbill comes with a glossary of British terms as the innocent British expression keep your pecker up has a decidedly different spin across the pond than its original meaning: keep your spirits up. 

Who knew?

In this witty farce theres a great deal of Marx Brothers-style tearing around from room to room and peeping through the keyhole to spy on what is quite obvious to the audience by the use of a cutaway view of the Markhams apartment where all the action takes place. Dont you just love to be in on the joke while the characters squirm? 

Assuming his wife has betrayed him after finding a piece of a love letter that he thinks is written to his wife, Philip Markham tries to catch her in the act. Hilarity ensues when Alastair, who has already begun to develop ideas of his own about his clients sexuality, discovers Henry riding Philip horse-style while they vie for a view of what they imagine to be Joanas affair.

But she is only hiding the fact that Linda is planning a tryst at her apartment while Philip is doing the same for his business partner, Henry, who plans to meet up with the telephone operator.  

Oh the lies! Oh the cheating! That the housekeeper and the decorator have secretly chosen to rendezvous in the apartment at the same time as the two other couples makes for a cleverly choreographed and wildly hysterical scenario.

Oddly, the production gets off to a tentative start. The set-up of the characters and their complex roles takes a good bit of explaining in order to establish whos pursuing whom and why. But it soon revs up to full throttle and the audience expectedly falls under the spell of age-old slapstick.

Look for James Raby, who is razor sharp as Philip and even surprises with a dollop of hoofing in his switcheroo role as the snide May I be so bold? family butler. Jennifer Finch is scintillating as Linda Lodge, played with a feather-light touch, and Katie Zitz turns out a Sylvie reminiscent of Uma Thurmans Swedish ingnue, Ulla, in the film, The Producers.  

Seamless performances abound in this summer winner!


At The Little Theatre of
Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St.,
through June 25th.  For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496.

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