Review: 'Not Now, Darling,' farce at Hedgerow

Zoran Kovcic and Rebecca Cureton appear in "Not Now, Darling" at the Hedgerow Theatre. ASHLEY SMITH / For The Inquirer
Zoran Kovcic and Rebecca Cureton appear in "Not Now, Darling" at the Hedgerow Theatre. ASHLEY SMITH / For The Inquirer
Posted: July 09, 2012

Does it matter if a professional theater panders to its audience? The Hedgerow Theatre has produced a Ray Cooney farce for 11 summers straight, and the company's artistic director, Penelope Reed, certainly doesn't think so. During her preshow address, a sea of eager hands shot up when Reed asked who had already seen one of their Cooney productions. In response, Reed exclaimed, "That's why we do them!"

In her defense, Cooney has penned some of the genre's most successful plays. His 1983 Run for Your Wife ran for nine years on the West End. While Cooney and cowriter John Chapman's Not Now, Darling bombed on Broadway in 1970, thanks to a strong supporting cast, the play is having its heyday at the Hedgerow.

From a simple scenario of a married London furrier (John Smitherman as Gilbert Bodley) bartering a fur coat to close the deal with his new girlfriend (Rebecca Cureton's Janie), Cooney spun a brilliant web of deceit and circumstance that envelops the otherwise unrelated and unwitting cast. Each customer adds a new layer of amorous adventure; multiple mistresses parade from one closet to the next in nothing more than a mink, wives return unexpectedly, mistaken identities confuse, and, throughout, Bodley's inept and increasingly harried partner Crouch (Zoran Kovcic) unwillingly shoulders the blame.

Jared Reed's direction stitches the plot's disparate threads into a seamless, easy-to-follow evening. However, despite the constant barrage of jokes, sexual innuendo, insults, and non sequiturs that permeate the escalating zaniness of each scene, the laughs didn't resound as richly as the script warrants. Much of this shortcoming stems from Reed's decision to ask the actors to speak in English accents. Both Smitherman and Kovcic fumble through their lines during much of Act One, and only one member of the cast (Jonny Long in a minor role) handles his diction properly.

Cureton's sly performance blends an imperious air into alluring winks and ample flashes of her body. She leads a strong ensemble that contributes new layers of humor in characterization; Susan Wefel annoys as Bodley's dowdy wife, Dave Polgar infuriates as Janie's brash husband; and Kovcic redeems his early dropping of lines with delicately placed touches, such as resting his head softly against a wall in exasperation while commotion whirls around him. Together, these performances engender a sympathy that spreads across the entire cast, elevating this farce's simple humor into a comedy of subtle, if slight poignancy. If that counts as pandering, then pander on.


Not Now, Darling

Through Aug. 12 at the Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Rd., Rose Valley. Tickets: $25 to $32. hedgerowtheatre.org or 610-565-4211.

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