Joanna and Phillip Markham are a happily married, devoted couple. They have been together 14 years, and while passion may have flagged, they still care for one another. Phillip works with his best friend, Henry Lodge, for a children’s book publisher, and Henry’s wife Linda, is Joanna’s best friend. When Move Over, Mrs. Markham, opens, Alistair Spenlow, a posh, trendy, effete interior designer is decorating the Markham’s flat, working hand-in-glove with Joanna. Linda reveals to Joanna she’s ready to have her first affair, after enduring years of Henry’s tomcatting around. Since Phillip and Joanna are attending a charity dinner that night, she wants to know if she (and boyfriend Walter) can borrow their digs for a quick boinkfest. Elsewhere, Henry is also asking Phillip if he and his new bird can do the same, little realizing the “love nest” is already booked. When Joanna and Phillip express disapproval, Linda and Henry scoff at their prudish naivete. Hilarity ensues.
Like numerous other farces based on misunderstanding, deception and adultery, Move Over, Mrs. Markham begins with a simple premise, often like the one described. Several philandering couples show up at the same spot for some extracurricular recreation, foolishly assuming they’ll have the place to themselves. Like a domino train or house of cards, the tiniest nudge can foment a chain reaction. To the credit of playwrights Ray Cooney and John Chapman, the resulting chaos comes from a well established culmination of events. Lately comic writers it seems, have gotten rather sloppy. Logic collapses. Credibility is strained, cows are milked dry. Gags are stacked and pasta flung against the wall. No one can be bothered to anchor humor with a fair bit of actuality, instead they assume we all want to laugh so badly we’ll ignore inane, absurd, utterly preposterous events. Of course I am not referring to Absurdism, or other genres that might engage devices say, like, non-linear logic, or associative wordplay, but scripts with no infrastructure. No core foundation to generate consistent dialogue and believable consequence. Not so with Cooney and Chapman, who bring considerable expertise and patient skill to this splendid, pleasurable comedy.
For some reason, audiences never seem to tire of straight male friends being caught in activity mistaken for gay coupling, but thankfully Move Over, Mrs. Markham doesn’t make too much of this. Under the direction of Paul McKenzie, the players blossom to this narrative, delivering deliciously silly lines with conviction and intuitive wit. You wouldn’t think that comedy, which feels so spontaneous and haphazard requires such delicate chemistry. Such balance and hair-trigger timing and off-kilter pitch. Rover Dramawerk’s production here is sublime. Move Over, Mrs. Markham is a rollicking, raucous, ridiculously funny romp. Smart, clever, loopy merriment for grownups, with a brash and nimble cast. Don’t miss closing weekend.
Rover Dramawerks presents Move Over, Mrs. Markham,playing May 4th-27th, 2017. 221 West Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, Texas 75023. 972-849-0358.