All of you — okay, both of you –— avid theatre review readers will remember that my last review was of Roller Skating With My Cousin which, unsurprisingly, contained generous amounts of on-stage roller skating. Who’d of thunk that this, my very next review, would be of a play as different from the last as peanut butter is from the space shuttle and yet, through some heretofore unheard of cosmic convergence, would also feature roller skating? I mean, what are the odds? No, seriously, I have no idea. Feel free to email in with your statistical estimates.
Habeas Corpus, presented by Golden’s own Miners Alley Playhouse, is a classic British bedroom farce. Its Director, Richard H. Pegg (father of one Simon Pegg, most recently seen as the latest incarnation of Scotty in last year’s Star Trek film), is himself British, so the choice of show makes immediate sense. More interesting, though, is that while Habeas Corpus is an outright hilarious comic whirlwind it is also one of the few British farces I’ve experienced that has an almost French undercurrent of pathos. It’s a show that pulls laugh after laugh from your lungs while simultaneously reminding your brain that you will, in fact, eventually die.
This play might be most succinctly summed up by saying that pretty much every character’s sole motivation is to shag another character. (For the non-Anglophiles out there, the verb “shag” is the British equivalent of our humble “fuck.”) Specifically, middle-aged doctor, Arthur Wicksteed (Verl Hite), hasn’t laid finger one on — or into — his wife, Muriel (Lindsey Pierce), in ages. Yet a mere glimpse of twenty-something sex kitten Felicity (Bethany Lillis) has his libido in NASCAR worthy overdrive. Perhaps it is Muriel’s own infatuation with her one time lover, Sir Percy Shorter (Jon Diack), that blinds her to her husband’s obviously wandering eye?
For his part, Sir Percy, with his typically British love of large breasts, finds lust at first site when he lays his eyes on the ample bosom of Muriel’s sister-in-law, Constance (Kestrel Burkey), who, until that time, had been the less eager half of a decade-long engagement with the local vicar, Canon Throbbing (Nathan Bock). Little does Sir Percy realize that Constance’s tits are more enhancement than endowment. For his part, Throbbing, as one might surmise from his name, is so unbearably horny after his over-long courtship of Constance that he would be satisfied with a crotch level knot in a tree.
Rounding out the randy group is Arthur and Muriel’s son, Dennis (Adam Perkes). Given that Dennis would happily die an early death if it only meant he could use Dad’s own crush, Felicity, as a sexual jungle gym, the saying “Like father, like son” has never been more apropos. Truly, the only characters not consumed by the quest for consummation are Felicity’s mother, Lady Rumpers (Deborah Persoff), traveling salesman –— after a fashion –— Mr. Shanks (David Blumenstock), the Wicksteed’s maid, Mrs. Swabb (Theresa Reid), and local townsperson, Mr. Purdue (Todd Sorensen), who is more in love with death than with, well, love.
From moment one, an inspired opening that employs Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” Habeas Corpus rollicks along piling lie upon lie as its characters attempt to battle mortality with healthy doses of sex. The set is as sparse as you’ll see, but the stage overflows with excellent performances. Hite’s Dr. Wicksteed, the closest thing to a center in the show, is the perfect blend of world-weariness and drollery. Perkes could give Seinfeld’s Michael Richard’s a run for his money with his twitchy, over the top take on Dennis. But it is Theresa Reid, as the lowly maid, who scales the highest heights of comedy. Her pointed observations, her immaculate timing, even her tiniest facial expression had me literally slapping my knee.
Miners Alley is a humble company that manages consistently to produce above average theatre. Never bad, their shows usually range from “good” to “great.” Habeas Corpus is outstanding.