Originally created 05/15/98

'Markham' performances are wickedly delightful

The Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre's new production of Cooney and Chapman's Move Over Mrs. Markham opens in a beautifully appointed London flat where some flat-out funny situations arise.

Sharon Brooks plays elegant but bored Joanna Markham, whose 15-year marriage to repressed Philip Markham (Robert Freeman) is as dull as the children's books he edits. They are best friends of Linda and Henry Lodge (Julie Menger and Tere Luke), each of whom is engaged in an extramarital fling or two.

One soon learns that each of the quiet spouses has independently arranged for their lusty friends to use the flat for their respective rendezvous -- naturally all at the same time on the same night. It's easy to predict that everyone will catch everyone else in some compromising corner before the evening ends.

Act One takes an awfully long time to set up all these situations, but when they begin to pop there is no door left unslammed, no bedclothes untossed. Think Absolutely Fabulous meets Three's Company.

Add to the volatile mix the pretentious interior designer Alistair, wickedly played by Richard Enriquez, in love with the au pair, played by Meredith Hackett. The interplay of the two suspicious husbands and the befuddled decorator was clever but decidedly dated in tone. Between their veddy British accents and the heavily mannered fey stereotypes that the play calls for, this performance will win no politically correct awards.

It's in Act Two that the whole cast really begins to cook. While Mr. Markham obsesses over his book, Henry the Hornet, Mrs. Markham makes a beeline for her decorator. What a delight to watch the boudoir heat up with misplaced love letters, misguided trysts and a floral bidet! However, lest one expect something truly lascivious, we hasten to add that this is strictly Markham Interruptum -- all tickle and wink stuff.

There were several standout performances in this madcap evening. Ms. Menger's Linda is a blousy, fearless huntress whose faux German turn was a treat. And as her sneaky hubbie Henry, Mr. Luke swills martinis while mugging every ounce out of a syllable.

Timing like his is perfectly matched by the body language of Kay Gross. As the prim Miss Smythe, who offers her 'Bow Wow' stories to Markham for publication, she is bookishly brilliant. The only heavy petting this priss allows is with her dogs, and what fun it is to see the rest try to hide their naughty ways from her.

Director Steve Walpert and scenic designer Steve Smith have woven a fast-paced choreography to use every inch of the stylish set. The superb cast calls everyone "dahling," in a place where no one is quite what he seems and everyone wonders what the new butler did. Delicious!

If you'd like to sample more of the saucy au pair while enjoying a tasty au jus, don't miss Move Over Mrs. Markham.

John Elliott is an associate professor of art history at the University of South Carolina Aiken.

On stage

What: Move Over Mrs. Markham

Where: Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre

When: Dinner at 7 and show at 8 tonight and Saturday night and May 21-23


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