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The Return of Campus Comedy: “See How They Run” Review

by Jonathan Ross

Madison Vogel (left), Clayton Gregg V, and Reilly Reid rehearse a scene of "See How They Run." Photo courtesy of Pitt-Greensburg Theatre Company.

From Nov. 11 to 14, the Pitt-Greensburg Theater Company treated us to a splendidly hilarious live production of “See How They Run,” a 1943 English comedy written by Philip King and directed in Ferguson Theater by Dr. Stephen A. Schrum.

Set in the fictional English vicarage of Merton-cum-Middlewick just after the end of World War II, “See How They Run” is a rollicking whirlwind of mistaken identities. Penelope Toop, wife of the vicar Lionel Toop, disguises her long-lost friend Clive in Lionel’s second-best suit so they can sneak out together to see a play. After they leave, an armed Russian spy called the Intruder escapes from a nearby air base, breaks into the vicarage, and steals Lionel’s best suit right off his shoulders. 

The Bishop of Lax and the visiting vicar Arthur Humphrey, dressed in clerical suits identical to Lionel’s, arrive at the vicarage a day earlier than expected and find Lionel in his underwear, the Intruder disguised as clergy, and Penelope locking arms with a man that isn’t her husband. In an unfortunate series of outrageous accusations, a call to the police, and a frenzied cat-and-mouse chase about the vicarage, it’s up to Penelope, Clive, and the Toop’s maid Ida to root out the Intruder before an innocent man ends up in handcuffs.

Madison Vogel as Penelope Toop and Clayton E. Gregg V as Clive Winton delighted the audience with astounding vocals and high-energy dialogue. Their excitement carried well into the final act where, while explaining to Lionel Toop and the Bishop everything that happened, they launched into a simultaneous onslaught of dialogue delivered so quickly the Bishop’s visible confusion was too much to handle.

John Paul Ritchey nailed the dramatic demeanor of the highly strung Bishop of Lax. Locked outside the house while Clive and Penelope panic about what to do with an unconscious Miss Skillion, Ritchey stands in the window, knocking on the glass furiously and complaining about the cold with a nasally shriek.

Lauren McNeil as the Intruder proves that you don’t need a lot of lines to be funny. Appearing behind Lionel Toop in Act II, her first line couldn’t have been delivered any better. “I want your clothes!” she demands of the vicar before striking him with a fireplace poker. So blunt and unexpected was the delivery that the audience couldn’t hold it in.

The set was aptly designed for the production, featuring plenty of open space and doorways for the actors to run in and out of. Act III’s chase scene made excellent use of the backstage area, with characters running from one doorway into another across the set and looping backstage to conserve the scene of an ongoing chase. The props were colorful and visible, used just enough to center attention on the actors, while the sounds of the doorbell and telephone broke up moments of silence or added to the chaos, much to the audience’s delight. On the other hand, the actors’ transparent masks, which the Theater Company acquired specifically for production purposes, were invisible in lieu of the excitement.

An outstanding production by the Pitt-Greensburg Theater Company, “See How They Run,” marks the return of comedy on campus after a difficult year. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

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