By Arlene McKanic

The reviewer must warn the theatergoer that Parkside Players’ new production of “See How They Run” makes no sense whatsoever. This is a good thing, because this work by Philip King is a complete, unapologetic farce. Even the name of the town where it takes place, Merton-Cum-Middlewick, is weird even for an English placename.

The play opens with Miss Skillon coming to the vicarage to complain that someone has usurped her role of decorating the church altar for the harvest festival — or something — and she suspects it’s Vicar Toop’s vulgar American wife, Penelope. After some badinage between Miss Skillon and the vicar’s maid, Ida, Reverend Toop comes in to reassure his guest, and eventually so does Penelope. The reviewer can’t be entirely sure how this leads to Miss Skillon ending up in the closet, the vicar ending up in his underwear after being assaulted by a Communist, and Penelope’s soldier friend losing his uniform and ending up dressed as the vicar and being mistaken for him by the vicar’s wife’s uncle. Then, a couple of other chaps wander into the vicarage for some reason. Oh, right, one of them is a sergeant looking for the Communist.

Since the plot is ridiculous, it’s best to concentrate on the performances. One standout is Natalie Y. Jones’s Ida, who’s the only character to hold on to her sanity throughout the long afternoon and evening when the play takes place. Earthy and canny in the way working class Brits are often portrayed, and half-way intelligent, which you can’t say for all of the characters, Ida is the play’s anchor. If we were caught in that kind of madness, we would act like her. Jones also has a cockney accent so spot on that the reviewer wondered if she was British herself. But no, Jones is not only from Fort Wayne, Ind., but “See How They Run” is her New York debut. May we see and hear much, much more of her.

Lori Ann Santopetro is excellent as that other British staple, the uptight spinster. Tweedy and fussing about in her pawky little hat and brogues, Santopetro’s Miss Skillon is a riot. Though Miss Skillon spends much time in a closet and gets punched out at least twice, Santopetro plays her as too delightfully annoying for anyone to feel sorry for her.

Jubilee Figueroa also has a ball as Penelope. Spoiled, loud, and impossible, she makes quite a foil for Dan Bubbeo’s sensible vicar, Lionel Toop. Both Bubbeo and Figueroa make the marriage seem plausible, which says much for their talent as actors. The action is so frenetic at one point that Bubbeo tripped and fell, and the reviewer had to worry if that busted lip he ran around with for the rest of the play was real.

Corporal Clive Winton, played with the right amount of American energy by Peter Sullivan, is Penelope’s former acting partner and old flame. W. Gordon Innes is Penelope’s uncle, the bemused Bishop of Lax, and Ian McDonald is the dotty Reverend Arthur Humphrey, who sort of drops in during the height of the insanity. Rene Bendana is at his comic/menacing best as the Communist and the always wonderful Richard Weyhausen is Sergeant Towers, who finds himself in a roomful of vicars and has to figure out which one is the fugitive Commie. (Does not Bendana’s sort-of-Russian accent give him away?)

The play is directed by Malini Singh McDonald with her usual verve. The program doesn’t list who did the sets, costumes, lighting or the sound, but they’re all superb; the reviewer wanted Miss Skillon’s beret. Given than McDonald is proficient at all of these crafts, she no doubt had a hand in them.

“See How They Run,” the nuttiest thing you’ll see all year outside of the presidential campaign, will be at Grace Lutheran Church, at Union Turnpike and 71st Road in Forest Hills, till Dec. 3.

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