I know why PM&L selected “It Runs in the Family” for its season 59 opener. It’s genuinely funny! And it most definitely appeals to a certain genre of audience, perhaps those who appreciate Benny Hill and early Monty Python.
Married neurologist Dr. David Mortimer is preparing for his career making Ponsonby lecture when he is disturbed by a former employee, Nurse Jane Tate with whom he had an affair “18 years and 9 months ago.”
Can you guess what she’s come to tell him? And as his colleagues prepare for the annual hospital Christmas pantomime all around him, Mortimer must fend off his wife discovering Nurse Tate’s visit, deal with a punk son roaming the hospital searching for him, and create some zany characters to protect his reputation as they slap-stickily run in and out of those swinging doors.
Written by British actor and playwright Ray Cooney (probably best know for his hit, “Run for Your Wife!”), the miscreant scoundrel Dr. Mortimer is made somewhat lovable under the deft direction of Jim Behr and the skills of talented actor Matthew J. Leptich. Leptich is a master at delivering the ever-growing elaborate deceptions and outrageous misdirection of identities. How he keeps it all straight is incredulously admirable. He plays Mortimer with a likeable pretentiousness and knows how to express himself physically and vocally. Leptich shines in Mortimer’s distress.
Matthew Craig is Dr. Hubert Bonney – a delicious, bewildered and easily duped, loyal partner in crime. He’s an eager actor and possesses great comedic timing. Leptich and Craig have the best moments in their extraordinary developing complications and antics, although Matron, as portrayed by Chris Jones, isn’t far behind (just wait to see what she does with a wheelchair.) The half-batty geriatric patient Bill Leslie is a scene-stealing Terry O’Brien.
Other standouts are the blustery, perpetually exasperated CEO Leo Kaliz’s Sir Willoughby Drake, Dianne Hosken’s sweet Mother Bonney, Chris Brouton’s curious Keystone Cop Police Sergeant and Erin Booth’s determined Jane Tate. They are all amply and energetically supported by Bonnie Hart (Sister), Heather Kearney (the very postural correct Rosemary) Julian Wilkerson (the menacing softie Leslie) and Donny Myer’s good-natured Dr. Connolly.
Set in the Doctor’s Common Room of London’s St. Andrew’s hospital functionally and attractively designed by Mark Audrain, let me also commend the ensemble on their consistent and believable British accents. There’s even a helpful guide to the meanings of British colloquialisms in the program. Because this is a farce, there’s a lot of required comedic movement in the ludicrously improbable situations, some which could still benefit from fine-tuning and precision in the frenetic delivery. But under Behr’s direction, this ensemble is having a lot of fun up there onstage, and so is the appreciative audience. But do get your tickets before this PM&L community theater production fades into entertaining memory.
• After 35 years in education and theater, Regina Belt-Daniels continues to do what she loves best: teach, travel, attend theater and write reviews.
If you go
WHAT: “It Runs in the Family”
WHEN: Through Oct. 6
WHERE: PM&L Theatre, 877 N. Main St., Antioch
COST: $18 adults/$15 students and seniors
INFORMATION: www.pmltheatre.com or 847-395-3055