REVIEW: 'See How They Run' a well-oiled machine

Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
Marty Jellison and Luann Lancaster appear in “See How They Run” at the Embassy Theatre.

You really must go see Embassy Theatre's "See How They Run" this Friday or Saturday, 8 p.m. For so long, many of us have been secluded in our homes, and choosing not to get out into the public any more than we have to. Going to the theatre over this past year has not exactly been in the forefront of our minds.

But, for those of us who love the stage, we have been dying to get back!

But, I tell you this. Director Mark Ashby has put together this opening season production with the most perfect cast to carry off the hilarity. I can only imagine the hours and hours of time that Ashby put into choreographing the blocking to orchestrate the scrambling around on the stage by the characters! And, don't we all need some good, old-fashioned belly laughs?

In 1947, World War II is over, but the Cold War has just begun. In a parsonage in England, a small-town vicar named Lionel Toop deals with both his free-spirited, Americanized, ex-actress wife Penelope and the scorn of the town busybody Miss Skillon, who is upset at Penelope for taking over the decorating of the church‘s Harvest Festival.

When Lionel leaves the house for the evening, Clive, an American GI and friend of Penelope’s, arrives unexpectedly to catch up on old times. They make plans to go out, but since Clive can’t be seen out of uniform, he disguises himself in one of the vicar’s suits. This leads to several cases of mistaken identity when Penelope’s uncle, the Bishop of Lax, arrives, all while the search for a communist takes place in and around the house. The maid desperately tries to keep everything from descending into chaos. 

With slapstick humor and wry wit, “See How They Run” has delighted audiences around the world for over 70 years. 

The production stars Ruth Jellison (Ida), Luann Lancaster (Miss Skillon), Marty Jellison (Rev. Lionel Toop), Katie Wilson (Penelope Toop), Timothy Bambara (Corp. Clive Winton), Adam Swayne (Bishop of Lax), Stephen Gumtz (An Intruder), Justice Courrier (Rev. Arthur Humphrey), and Matt Armentrout (Sergeant Towers).

The production/creative crew working with Ashby are Dana Bridges, stage manager; Danise Whitlock (costumes); Mike Hartman (set foreman); Dan Cope, Jais Holt, Alexa Crabtree, Don Llewellyn (set team); Jerard Puckett (producer).

Sitting in a darkened theatre, waiting for the actors to take the stage, I was perched on the edge of my seat - just so excited to see a show again. Most of the cast I was already familiar with, as they have been featured in many productions at the Embassy, Cumberland Theatre, Apple Alley, Potomac State, Bedford Players, and Acting Out for ALS - seasoned, well respected for their craft, and certain to make this writer laugh again with their shenanigans. I was NOT disappointed!

I won't deny that I was like a child waiting for Christmas. I couldn't wait to see what Ashby was going to lead these actors into as the cast carried off the craziest and funniest mistaken identities! I was eager to see what Ashby was going to do to pull off these zany, crazy, "who are you" and "who is that" in and off the stage. Being familiar with the production, I already knew it was funny,  And, I certainly expected these actors would bring perfection in telling the story written by Philip King.

To my delightful surprise, there was a new face on the stage...someone I knew of as the daughter-in-law of one of my friends. Katie Wilson delivered! She mastered the role of Penelope Toop, and seemed a perfect match for the character in her debut at Embassy Theatre. Katie brought a slew of theatre productions in her portfolio, and it was so thrilling to see someone excel and start off a full season on the area stages.

Taking place in England, the accents were spot on by Ruth Jellison, Luann Lancaster -who, by the way, can play any role in the world and make me laugh, and cry and feel all kinds of emotions. She's just that good, and in demand by all area directors. Matt Armentrout had his Cockney accent down pat, too!

Stephen Gumtz has impressed audiences for years, and I am his number one fan. Like Luann, he can carry a leading role like Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar,” to working behind the scenes to help a play run smooth as glass. Same here - Stephen shines in ANY role.

It was so nice to see the return of Justice Courrier to the Embassy stage after a four-year hiatus when he was off to get his college education. In fact, he is still continuing with his courses to become a guidance counselor. Justice has a gentlemanly presence on stage, and he can be as funny as the next crazy character in this show!

Truth is, every single cast member works the entire stage like a well-oiled machine. You never know what's going to happen next. Make plans for a nice dinner at one of downtown Cumberland's eateries, and then walk on down to Embassy. It's time to laugh and have fun this weekend, don't you agree?

For more information please contact the Embassy Theatre at 240-362-7183, email us at embassytheatre@atlanticbbn.net, or visit us online at www.embassytheatrecorp.org.