Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: Run for Your Wife

Run for Your Wife, by Ray Cooney, produced at Hedgerow Theatre, directed by Penelope Reed, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield, featuring Joel Guerrero, John Smith, Amy Frear and Alexis Newbauer.

Review: Run for Your Wife

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By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

Every summer for a dozen years, Hedgerow Theatre has trotted out a farce - some new, some old - by England's reigning farceur, Ray Cooney. Run for Your Wife was their first, as well as Cooney's most successful, and the company revives it again with Penelope Reed behind its wildly veering wheel. The comedy ran for nine years on London's West End, closing in 1991, but last year received an abysmal screen treatment that left reviewers decrying its stale humor. So, have we moved past this zigzagging farce's freshness date? Well, yes and no.

Certainly, there's plenty of mileage in a taxi driver and secret bigamist who gets whacked in the head during a mugging. Still woozy, he gives the hospital two separate home addresses which happen to house his two separate wives, each of whom contacts the police looking for her husband. But Cooney's distasteful habit of relying on "pansy" and "poofter" jokes - which rears its ugly head in more than one of his comedies - is an uncomfortable match for contemporary audiences.

Reed's frenetic pace keeps Joel Guerrero's chubby marriage maestro John Smith on the move, and with wiry Andrew Parcell as coconspirator and neighbor Stanley Gardener, the pair work their way through this script's pitfalls with plenty of physical humor and finesse.

Amy Frear and Alexis Newbauer toe their respective lines as Mary and Barbara, wives one and two, though Newbauer's assertiveness makes for more fun viewing than Frear's abrupt swing from even temper to hysteria. More fun still is Zoran Kovcic's mild-mannered Detective Porterhouse, whose curious nickname brings some of the show's heartiest laughs.

Despite this play's 1983 premiere, perhaps setting the production in a different era might have helped sidestep (or confront) some of Cooney's less charitable characterizations. And while Kovcic (who also designed the set) alludes to the early '80s with metal wall sculptures and abstract paintings, he doesn't go quite far enough. Neither does costumer Cathie Miglionico, whose costumes (except those for a gay upstairs neighbor) are too understated to convey a sense of either place or time. Still, credit the crack team onstage for making the best of this material.

Run for Your Wife Presented by Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Rd., Media, through Aug. 18. Tickets: $10-$32. 610-565-4211 or www.hedgerowtheatre.org.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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