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Farce sprints across the Okoboji stage

OKOBOJI, Iowa -- Currently playing at Okoboji Summer Theatre (OST), the aptly titled "See How They Run" by the late Philip King is British farce on the gallop. Five of the characters race across the stage, out to the garden, back to the living room and into the kitchen; all of them appear to be clergy. But which one is not really a man of the cloth?

Action starts slowly in the first act with a lot of talking to set up the story line. Clive, an American corporal during World War II, calls at the vicarage in the English countryside looking for his friend Penelope, a vicar's wife. Clive and Penelope, also an American, had performed together in the same acting company, so they decide on the spur of the moment to celebrate with an evening of theater while the vicar is away on parish business.

At Penelope's urging, Clive exchanges his Army uniform for the reverend's second-best black suit, disguising himself because he doesn't have permission to leave the base. The arrangement is an innocent one, but unfortunately Miss Skillon, a troublemaker in the church, witnesses the warm greeting between the two friends and relishes a chance to snoop on them, hiding herself in the vicarage, awaiting their return, ready to report to the vicar.

Meanwhile, Penelope's uncle, the bishop, arrives at the house, followed coincidentally by a communist spy with a gun, then by the guest minister, who will conduct church services in the morning. When Penelope's husband, the Reverend Toop, returns home, the Russian spy attacks him and takes his suit.

Excellent comic timing makes the chase much more fun than the dialogue, though favorite lines are plays-on-words: "Don't bicker, Vicar" and "Whatever you see, pretend you don't see. See?"

Kyle Groff, in his eighth year at OST, takes top honors for the cast, very natural and personable as the young soldier and really agile as well.

The married couple, played by Rhea Amos and Charles Evans, have difficult roles and sometimes appear stilted when they speak. Their method of physical comedy includes too many grimaces and head tosses, though their timing is often right on the mark.

Denise Saylor is hilarious in many instances as the prim and proper, prone-to-take-insult Miss Skillon, who falls on the floor and tumbles out of the coat closet after imbibing the contents of a bottle from the vicar's cupboard. A funny Cockney maid is portrayed by Chrisena Ricci.

Dru Silva offers amusing facial expressions and believable acting as a timid visiting-clergyman while John Watkins makes an imposing bishop even when he's ready for bed in his nightcap and nightshirt. Alex Rodriguez, the intruder, and Joel Mingo, representing Army police, make up the rest of the cast.

"See How They Run" played 549 performances in London's West End in 1944-'45 to rave reviews. At Okoboji, it continues its merry romp through Sunday, directed by Steve Taft. The chase sequence is what you'll remember best about this week's production.