The community embraced British farce last weekend as doors slammed, clergymen chased one another, and a Russian spy, and prim and proper Miss Skillon took a fist in the mug and sought solace in the cooking sherry.
On the surface, "See How They Run" is silly. But in the tradition of British gems such as "Noises Off" and "Blithe Spirit," the masterful wordplay and larger-than-life characters elevates it to a sophisticated production, which, done well, bowls the audience along as happily as the performers.
View from the Stage, Crestview's new community theatre troupe, did it well.
You needn’t be an apostle of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," "Fawlty Towers" or "Absolutely Fabulous" to appreciate the local production’s brilliance. A passing knowledge of those classic Britcoms, though, was helpful in recognizing their homage to the cleverness of shows such as Friday night’s play.
Performing Philip King's war-era hoot requires split-second timing, in dialogue delivery and stage movement, and under Sandra Peters' deft direction, the nine-member cast excelled at both.
"It was such a fun play to produce," Berit Faust, the company's executive director, said. "I was quite pleased with our actors and their performance."
I was tickled to see the local cast conquer the perennial bane of producing British farce — which is doing it with a decent British accent.
I can only imagine how throughout weeks of rehearsals, the actors — all of whom turned in superb performances — probably drove their families bonkers by speaking Brit from sunrise to sunset.
Space precludes listing each player’s attributes, but I would be remiss not to salute 35-year stage veteran Nancy Black’s thoroughly enjoyable personification of the blustery Miss Skillon.
Even when hilariously locked in the closet or out cold from a concussion or bottle, Miss Skillon was a major stage presence with whom the rest of the cast had to reckon — or at least step over.
Kudos also go to Meghan Erlacher as the vicar's wife, Penelope Toop, who, like Miss Skillon, was onstage for virtually the entire show and with whom she shared deliciously catty banter.
Life imitating art, Erlacher frequently shared the stage with real-life husband Ray Erlacher, playing likeable Corp. Clive Winton, who poses as her stage husband, the vicar — played wonderfully stuffily by a real-life vicar, the Rev. Sean Peters — to sneak out for an evening of — wait for it — British farce.
Though the production drew a nearly full house opening night, attendance declined over the next two performances. That means a couple hundred people deprived themselves of a fabulously funny couple of hours.
Fortunately, View from the Stage promises there's more to come, and welcomes participation from residents, whether on stage, backstage or as a sponsor.
"I had several attendees inquire about our plans for future productions," Faust said. "That, of course, was very encouraging."
Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.