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Laughs Top Off Theater's Season

Little Theatre of Alexandria offers comedy of confusion.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria's latest show, its last for the 2004-05 season, offers nothing but a fun time. It isn't intended to teach a lesson, it isn't an examination of eternal truths and it doesn't have much of a moral — unless you count a final reaffirmation of the old adage that it's better to tell the truth if only because it is so much easier than remembering all your lies.

"Run for Your Wife" is one of the most successful comedies by one of London's most successful comedy writers, Ray Cooney. His isn't a name as recognizable as, say, Neil Simon or even that of his London contemporary, Alan Ayckbourn, but he's churned out at least two dozen comedies including many long-running successes in London where there seems to be more of an appetite for this particular brand of farcical pandemonium than there is on Broadway where none of his plays has really caught on.

Confusion? Yes, the entire piece is built on a constantly increasing structure of lies as a poor fellow invents one outlandish explanation after another in an effort to avoid exposure of the fact that he has been living with two different wives in two different flats in two different London neighborhoods. A cab driver with split shifts, he has managed to convince each wife that his time with them is his entire time away from the cab.

Disaster strikes when a minor traffic accident sends him off to the emergency room. Before he gets out, both wives have called the police to report him missing. The inspectors assigned to the two cases of the missing "John Smith" — one from the precinct near one wife's home and the other from the other wife's neighborhood — begin to unravel the cabby's house of cards of explanations and excuses.

THE KEY TO THE HUMOR here is to keep the audience from getting as confused as the characters get. Director Roland Bradford Gomez uses all the tricks of the trade to accomplish this, and he's very successful at it. He uses colors to set off the two different worlds of the cabby with one wife wearing a wardrobe of greens and blues and living in a home with green and blue décor while the other wife lives in a home decorated in reds and purples and wears purple outfits.

Other characters also sport clothing that match the color schemes except for the two police inspectors, both in a bureaucratic brown and the cabby himself who sports a shirt with stripes of all those colors. The set, too, has a panel at center stage that is made up of all the colors behind a mauve sofa.

The physical design may give clues to help the audience keep the plot straight but it is the strong, clear performances that are the most help. Margaret Bush and Kacie Ekman as the two wives create very different, very distinct personalities. Bush shows a fine touch of flightiness as one wife while Ekman is very funny in her constant struggle to understand each new twist in her world.

BOTH HOUSEHOLDS have an upstairs neighbor who gets involved in the confusion. Graham Powell is the one the cabby puts through the strangest paces and he carries the comedy of exasperation off with panache. Brandon DeGroat is the one whose life is already the strangest as a gay cross-dresser with a heart of gold. He is very funny in the role.

The solid core of the show, however, simply has to be the actor playing the cabbie. It is he who unleashes all the confusion and complications and the piece can only really work if his logic is clear and his motivations understandable. In this role, the production is fortunate to have Mark Adams, who not only accomplishes those tasks; he does it without overacting or punching a gag to the detriment of a scene. He is quite marvelous at showing his surprise at the failure of each subsequent outlandish lie to solve his dilemma.

The show brings to an end a season that has been quite successful for the company. They did a beautifully balanced "Biloxi Blues," an intriguing "Pack of Lies," a great fun version of "Das Barbecü," a refreshingly wholesome family story in "Over the River and Through the Woods" and an entertaining "Washington Slept Here."