Monday, December 7, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Ray Cooney's It Runs In The Family at The Gallery Players by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Ray Cooney's “It Runs In The Family" at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

It Runs In The Family
Written by Ray Cooney
Directed by Mark Harborth
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Reviewed 12/6/15 

If you want some relief from your holiday doldrums, I suggest you attend the Ponsonby Lecture on neurology scheduled to be presented by Dr. David Mortimore, Chief of Neurology, at 12 noon on December 22nd at St. Andrews Hospital in London. I hear it might lead to a knighthood if he delivers his speech well, avoids wearing wigs, and keeps his pants rolled down. But that is not an easy task given what has been going on in the Doctors' Common Room. His boss, Sir Willoughby Drake, who wants to make sure the speech is perfect, has refused to look it over after walking in on Dr, Mortimore apparently having oral and anal sex with an eighteen year old boy. Rosemary Mortimore, his wife, is also there to hear his lecture. Jane Tate, a former Nurse, shows up with the news that Dr. Mortimore is the father of Leslie, who upon learning his real father wasn't dead and worked at the hospital, became intoxicated, was arrested by a Police Sergeant for traffic infractions, and brought to the hospital so his father can accompany him to the precinct. Police Sergeant Connolly is also the uncle of Dr. Mike Connolly, a "daft bugger" who is consumed with the duties of running the hospital's Boxing Day pageant. Dr. Mortimore convinces Dr. Hubert Bonney to temporarily admit paternity, which pleases Leslie, Dr. Bonney's mother, and Jane Tate, who is afraid to disturb her son with any further bad news. Add to that a Matron injected with a sedative hanging from a window ledge in the snow, three other Matron impersonators, a patient rolled into the action by a Sister looking for a man (as opposed to a dog) named Leslie, and a young, emotionally unstable teenager standing in his red boxer shorts or posing as a corpse, and you have the basic elements of a mindless, frenetic, farce fraught with confusion, misidentification, and zany antics. As long as you don't think too hard about the decisions of the characters or question the premises of the plot, It Runs In The Family will take you on a joy ride full of hearty laughs, twists and turns, ins and outs, and ups and downs. With its excellent ensemble cast, I guarantee you will have a jolly good time.

Under the professional direction of Mark Harborth, the entire cast did a fine job bringing this British Farce to life. Special recognition is owed to Michael Hardart for making Dr. Hubert Bonney into a believable character as opposed to a simplistic, duped nincompoop. Leonardo Altafini (the Police Sergeant) and Dominic Cuskern (Sir Willoughby Drake) deserve credit for playing their parts as seriously as was intended by the playwright in the midst of the madness taking place around them. Ben van Berkum, a very charismatic actor with a strong stage presence, was able to transition from depressed, angry Leslie to happy, content Leslie without missing a beat. Noelle McGrath was very believable as the Matron, and, in fact, set up one of the funniest lines in the play. She said, "Matron can turn ugly," to which Dr. David Mortimore, more than competently portrayed by Joseph Cassesse, responded, "There is no answer to that." Dr. Mortimore also sometimes acts as a man of the cloth, a Vicar who does not wear a collar since he is "unorthodox." The very talented Adrian Rifat, who played Dr. Mike Connolly and one of the Matron impersonators, was said by Dr. Bonney to have "female features but primarily male fixtures," which might explain why he enjoyed wearing female clothing. Monica Ammerman was more than competent as Jane Tate, the former Nurse who arrived unannounced to tell Dr. Mortimer that when she unexpectedly left her job 18 years and 9 months ago without saying goodbye, that she was "expecting." With Dr. Mortimore clueless, Jane said, "after what we did, what do you think I was expecting?" to which he responded, "It couldn't have been a raise." Amy Scanlon (Rosemary Mortimore), Pauline Walsh (Mother) and Elyssa Nicole Ackerman (Sister) made significant contributions to the cast and to the success of this production. Larry Gutman played the resilient patient (Bill posing as Leslie) who sang show tunes, thought his wife had come back to him, and wouldn't go away even after returning with a toilet seat over his head. But most importantly, he remained confused because there is no number 34 bus that goes to Camden Town!

The best summary of unanswered questions is provided by Police Sergeant Connolly, who finally confronts everyone at one time and place, saying Dr. Mortimore's wife can go home only after he gets some answers to a few questions, "Like why Matron Pathological had a six-inch syringe stuck in her backside, and why Ear, Nose & Throat, and Surgical, having suffered similar injections, have disappeared off the face of the earth. Why Dr. Bonney has a wife he knows nothing about, a mistress he calls Miss Tate, Mrs. Tate and Mrs. Lesley -- and a mother he calls Pussy. Why the doctors in this place can make some patients rise amazingly from the dead, and, at the same time, they don't know if other patients are D.O.A., C.O.D., or have been hit by a number 34 B-U-S. Why there seems to be some permanent pantomime rehearsal in progress running concurrent with some vicar's tea party. Why the name Leslie seems to cover all forms of life -- from unbalanced punks to neurotic dogs. And why, if you're called Leslie or Tate, all your relatives have suffered fatal climbing accidents in the Himalayas. Why, if you have those aforementioned names of Lesley or Tate, you don't seem to know who your mother or father is -- and why I'm beginning to think you're all a bunch of baskets."   

To get the answers to these and other questions, see Ray Cooney's It Runs In The Family at The Gallery Players before December 20, 2015. It plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. with 2:00 p.m. Saturday matinees and 3:00 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets cost $18.00 for adults ($15.00 for children and senior citizens). You can purchase your tickets by calling 212-352-3101 or by visiting this website:  

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