It Runs in the Family

The Brown County Playhouse has been offering a British farce each summer for a number of years. I’ve lost count, but I think that It Runs in the Family is the fifth of playwright Ray Cooney’s pieces. In my memory, it’s the funniest of the lot.

Bruce Burgun directs a multi-talented cast in a production where the level of energy and convoluted activity is hard to believe. The set for It Runs in the Family is a doctors’ common room in a London hospital. There are two sets of double doors, three or so regular doors and, for good measure, a wide double casemented window. Every possible entrance and exit gets a workout as people pop in and out through the show.

Wolf Sherrill plays a British neurologist preparing to deliver the speech that will be the apex of his career and put him in line for a knighthood. He seems a shoo-in, until an old love, played with chrm by Melissa Joy Nedell, arrives with the news that she and the doctor have an eighteen year old son. Not only do they have a son, but the son, played by Jackson Bloom as a cartoon figure of wild punk with pink spiked hair, leather and various piercings, is at the hospital to see his long lost father. Sherrill goes into high gear to try to keep this a secret at least until he can get his speech done.

Sherrill enlists the grudging help of two other doctors, played by Alan Craig and Erik Anderson, and the unwitting help of the starchy hospital matron played by Mary Foster-Kinzer Sylvester to help with his ploys. Now farces are very much about frustation. And true to form, it seemed that every time Sherrill had hit upon a simple expedient, something happened and a still more complicated tactic had to added to the original one. At one point things were so raucously out of hand that each of the three doctors showed up dressed as the hospital matron. As one of the doctors, Erik Anderson was especially delightful as he became more and more confusedly enmeshed in the plots and counterplots of It Runs in the Family. . Near the end, things had gone so far that Anderson plaintively confessed, "I’ve lost track of what I’m supposed to be covering up."

Farce works only when it is juxtaposed with some semblance of normality. In the playhouse production the semblance was from the hospital administration, the civil authority and the family. Steve Heise represented the hospital as the redoubtable Sir Willoughby Drake. Peter Gerharz was the civil authority as the stolidest of police sergeants. Carolyn Klein was for the family, as the epitome of a respectable doctor’s wife.

. I saw It Runs in the Family with a full house on Saturday. It got a lot of laughs from a very appreciative crowd. The show plays Wednesdays through Sundays through August twenty-sixth at the Brown County Playhouse.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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