British farce comes to the Bradley
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Mon., Jan. 28, 2013
Director Paul Neuhardt watched as cast members finished rehearsing a scene in the upcoming Bradley Playhouse production, “No Sex, Please... We're British.” It was the first scene, and as such it set the groundwork for what was to come - a fast-paced farce with a good deal of physical humor.
“I was liking what I saw,” Neuhardt said to the actors after the scene. “When I get nitpicky as hell, that's a good sign.” He stood close to the stage and went through his notes carefully, telling actors where they said a line too fast or too slow, how they could correct a stance or how and when to emphasize a word in a phrase.
“That was the first time we started to see the story,” he said. “I got involved like an audience member would.”
The story is about a newlywed who brings havoc on herself, her husband, an assistant bank manager and the bank's chief cashier when she innocently orders Scandinavian glassware and receives pornography instead. Photographs, books and films inundate the couple, and every effort to stop the deliveries fails. What happens is a cascade of humorous disasters.
You don't need to be British to understand the humor, according to Neuhardt. “It's an easily understood situation, when you think about it,” he said. “It could have happened here in America. A fairly innocuous thing happens and the characters try to correct it, and every attempt to correct it makes it worse. It just becomes this avalanche of things going wrong to people trying desperately to not have things go wrong. A lot of it is just bad timing and bad luck.”
With a week to go before opening night, Neuhardt was paying special attention to timing. “If you rush a line and step on someone else's line, the audience won't get the joke. If there's a gap when there isn't supposed to be, you'll lose the effect of the joke,” he explained. Complicating everything was the stage set, a character in itself with seven doors, a set of stairs, and a hatch between the kitchen and dining room. It's a setting made for quick-paced entrances and exits.
UConn junior David Smith plays Brian Runnicle, the hapless chief cashier who finds himself embroiled in the mess after signing for the package for his boss' wife. Once involved, he is hard pressed to get out of it. Every attempt gets him more deeply entrenched. Delivering his lines realistically within the confines of his character were the biggest challenges, he said. “It's definitely a challenge not to cut off people's lines,” he said. But the lack of audience feedback during rehearsal was also hard. “Laughter is such important feedback,” he said. “It can clue you in to pause or ad lib. Laughter is something you hear for the first time on opening night.”
Neuhardt assured him he was on the right track. He liked the faces he made and the timing of them. He liked the effect his fidgeting made on the play, bringing a visual element to the stage. “Brian has done a very good job,” Neuhardt said. “He's doing a great job of selling the hapless, bumbling idiot, which is a hard thing to do. It's easy to oversell that and make it ridiculous. The audience can watch him be clumsy and ridiculous, but they're sympathetic because they can imagine a real person doing what he does.”
The cast has been working on the play since before Christmas. By the time it opens on Feb. 2, cast members will have spent seven weeks honing their skills, getting the timing of their lines right, and perfecting their British accents.
The show's title might be misleading. “It's not a racy show,” Neuhardt said. “Don't be scared off by the description. I think a lot of people will enjoy coming out to see this.”
Showings are Feb. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 3, 10, 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 for adults, $14 for senior citizens/students/children.