You probably have never heard of him, but Anthony Marriott passed away this year in London, at the age of 83. He was well known in British circles for co-writing the record-setting play, “No Sex Please, We’re British,” written by Marriott and Alistair Foot (who died a few weeks before opening night in London), which ran in the West End for more than 16 years, from June 1971 until September 1987, a total of 6,761 performances. And to this day, is the longest-running comedy in the history of theater in England. The only other productions that have run longer are “The Mousetrap” and “The Woman in Black.” Currently, Huntington Playhouse is unleashing this farce on local audiences. In order to enjoy this wild ride, it would be a great benefit if you were a fan of “Benny Hill,” as the show is strewn with physical comedy and enough innuendo to last for years.
The plot involves a young bride (Jena Gross), and her husband (Steve Martin), who is the assistant manager at a bank, who innocently sends a mail order off for some Scandinavian glassware. What comes is Scandinavian pornography. The plot revolves around what is to be done with the veritable floods of pornography, photographs, books, films, and eventually girls (Natalie Romano, Will Crosby) that threaten to engulf this happy couple. The matter is considerably complicated by the man’s mother (Meg Parish), his boss (David Hundertmark), a visiting bank inspector (Jordon Fleming), a police superintendent (Ron Young), and a muddled friend (Bob McClure), who does everything wrong in his reluctant efforts to set everything right.
Director Christopher Bizub takes on this rather outdated relic with zeal. I say outdated, because most of the comedy bits have been around for years, so it is a tough task to make this fresh and shockingly funny. The assembled cast does a valiant job, but due to the air conditioning keeping the audience cool, the actors who project the best and have the clearest diction are the winners. McClure as Brian, is one of those individuals who pulls off a physically chaotic and amusing performance. This would be the local answer to Chris Farley, and he literally does everything he can to create havoc, except throw himself on the coffee table and destroy it. Martin as Peter, and Gross as Frances, have their jobs cut out for them. Having the job of being the Rob and Laura of the evening, they are surrounded with characters that are constantly vying for the audience’s attention. For the most part they hold up well. Martin creates a frenetic character that serves as a comedic ping pong ball, as he bounces around navigating this motley crew of British invaders. Gross is charming, but her diction distracts, as does her habit of looking in the audience. Parish is wonderful as Eleanor, Peter’s Mother. With grace, charm and comedic timing, Parish turns in a very fun performance. As does her eventual suitor, Hundertmark. Fleming and Young have fun with their supporting contributions, but I would suggest Fleming wear an extra pair. Romano and Crosby definitely get the reaction that fans of Benny Hill would love.
The show lacks a crispness in some of the physical comedy, but the constant flow of motion was definitely well paced. With so many entrances and exits, the cast was a well-timed machine. There are many more smiles here, than laughs, but this is one bottle of wine away from a raucous evening of old school comedy.
Stage Manager Joy DeMarco, Set Design Tom Meyrose, Light and Sound Design Chuck Tisdale, and Costume Design David Glowe.
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$10-$20 Reserved Seating
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