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British Slapstick Keeps the Pecker Up in Move Over, Mrs. Markham At The Little Theatre

Jordan Wright
Special to The Alexandria Times
June 9th, 2011



James Raby (Philip Markham), Suzanne Behsudi (Miss Wilkinson), and Charles Boyington (Henry Lodge)   Photography Shane Canfield

James Raby (Philip Markham), Suzanne Behsudi (Miss Wilkinson), and Charles Boyington (Henry Lodge). Photo Credit Shane Canfield

If you want to know how a little white lie can turn into full-blown sex-charged mayhem just ask the well-meaning Mrs. Markham.  She’s the full-time referee in this flat-out crazy British farce.  You might inquire of her children’s book publisher husband, Philip Markham, who is so squeamishly prim he has to spell out the word S-E-X, or their flashy playboy decorator, Alistair Spenlow, whose sexuality is in question, until cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction up by the remark, “He’s not gay.  He plays golf!” Of course the audience has already seen him lusting after Sylvie, the Swedish sexpot housekeeper, who has her own liberated ideas of flirtation.  “I do the goose quite well!” she attests imitating his antics.

If you want proof of how a petite prevarication, can morph into a series of whoppers witness the Markham’s friends, Henry and Linda Lodge, and their prospective paramours, Miss Wilkinson, the vixen telephone operator and Walter Pangbourne, the ambitious salesman, as they plan to cheat on each other in the same house on the same night.  Oh what a tangled web we weave!  In this case it’s a carousel of bed-hopping worthy of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

Move Over, Mrs. Markham derives from the same genre as the screwball Britcoms, Keeping Up Appearances and Are you Being Served? You can count on the characters to be chockfull of malaprops, double entendres and skewed intentions.  Thankfully the playbill comes with a glossary of British terms, because the innocent British expression “keep your pecker up” has a decidedly different spin to us than the translation to “keep your spirits up”.  Who knew?

In this witty farce there’s a great deal of Marx Brothers’-style tearing around from room to room and peeping through the keyhole to spy on what is quite obvious to the audience by the use of a cutaway view of the Markham’s apartment where all the action takes place.  Don’t you just love to be in on the joke while the characters squirm?

 Jennifer Finch (Linda Lodge) and Shelagh Roberts (Joanna Markham). Photo Credit Shane Canfield

Jennifer Finch (Linda Lodge) and Shelagh Roberts (Joanna Markham). Photo Credit Shane Canfield

After assuming his wife has betrayed him by finding a piece of a love letter that he thinks is written to his wife, Philip Markham tries to catch her in the act.  An uproarious scene evolves when Alastair, who has already begun to develop ideas of his own about his client’s sexuality, discovers Henry riding Philip horsie-style while they vie for a bedroom view of what they imagine to be Joana’s affair.

But Joana Markham is only hiding the fact that Linda is planning a tryst at her apartment while Philip is doing the same for his business partner, Henry, who plans to meet up with the telephone operator.  Oh the lies!  Oh the cheating!  That the housekeeper and the decorator have secretly chosen to rendezvous in the apartment at the same time as the two other couples makes for a cleverly choreographed and wildly hysterical scenario.

Oddly the production gets off to a tentative start.  The set-up of the characters and their complex roles takes a good bit of explaining in order to establish who’s pursuing whom and why.  But it soon revs up to full throttle and the audience expectedly falls under the spell of the age-old slapstick.


Look for James Raby who is razor sharp as Philip and even surprises with a dollop of hoofing in his switcheroo role as the snide “May I be so bold?” family butler.  Jennifer Finch is scintillating as Linda Lodge, played with a feather-light touch and Katie Zitz turns out a Sylvie reminiscent of Uma Thurman’s Swedish ingénue, Ulla, in the film, The Producers. Seamless performances all around in this summer winner!

At The Little Theatre of Alexandria 600 Wolfe Street through June 25th.  For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496.

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