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Stage Review: See them run, shout, slam doors

Mistaken identities, slamming doors and breathless actors are part of the fun in "See How They Run."

Mistaken identities, slamming doors and breathless actors are part of the fun in "See How They Run."

If you are one who likes to watch other people work, or if you are fascinated by all the heavy lifting at a construction site, then “See How They Run” at Live Theatre Workshop is your kind of play.

In this vigorous British farce by Philip King, a cast of eight spends the evening running, falling, jumping, shouting and – of course – slamming lots of doors. Then at the end, bustling Sergeant Towers (Chad Ramsey) comes in to sort everything out.

So there is lots to watch as these energetic folks take us through a convoluted plot that’s not particularly kind to the Church of England. American soldier boys are portrayed as a rather randy lot, as well.

“See How They Run” opened in London during World War II. Britain’s brave soldiers were heading off across the channel to fight the Germans while Yanks in uniform were arriving in England to chase after the British girls. Somehow it just didn’t seem fair.

That’s in the play, too.

Debbie Runge has a bright smile and all the mannerisms of free-thinking Penelope Toop, a young woman clearly born to lead defiant feminist campaigns against monolithic conservatives. Unfortunately it is 1942, a couple of decades before those campaigns would begin. So Penelope, once the flirty actress who brightened the makeshift stages of many military camps as she entertained the troops in a production of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives,” has married the Rev. Lionel Toop (Cliff Madison).

Who can blame her? Church must have seemed like a very safe place. Even for a playful young woman such as Penelope who had little respect for the prim and proper.

So as the play opens, her husband the vicar is patiently trying to explain for the umpteenth time that Penelope’s spontaneous behavior does not reflect favorably on the Church. She isn’t buying it, much to the chagrin of uptight Miss Skillon (Jodi Rankin) – a firm believer in the importance of minding everybody else’s business.

But wouldn’t you know it, Penelope’s uncle is the Bishop of Lax (Steve McKee). This gives the Rev. Toop some extra incentive to cut Penelope a little slack every time she raises a fuss with Miss Skillon.

Not only that, but the bishop is about to pay a visit to this favored niece, so the reverend is in a real tizzy. Then the plot ratchets up another notch with the surprise arrival of Cpl. Clive Winton (Christian Armstrong), the very American actor who played opposite Penelope in all those performances of “Private Lives.”

Cpl. Winton and Penelope still have a thing for each other. They don’t have much luck keeping their affections a secret. So many doors are slamming so often it’s blowing back the hair of people in the first two rows of seats.

And two more characters, plus Sgt. Towers, still have to make their entrance.

Routing all this stage traffic is Stephen Frankenfield, the director. He has chosen to emphasize the action rather than the acting. We recognize the character types and go along. Who needs fully-rounded personalities when everyone is flying all about the stage.

After all, the play’s title is not “See How They Sit Around Talking.” Joining in the footrace are the mysterious Intruder (Eric Anson) and the Rev. Arthur Humphrey (Tony Eckstat), who outranks the bishop.

You can be sure by the time curtain call arrives, everyone will have exhausted their opportunities.



What: “See How They Run” by Philip King

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 27.

Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.

Price: $13-$16, with discounts

Info: 327-4242, www.livetheatreworkshop.org

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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