'It Runs in the Family' works as funny farce

Every so often, it’s nice to go to the theater and see a play that you don’t have to think too much about, a show that does the work for you, sweeps you up and takes you along for a fun ride. For some in the loyal audience Friday, this seemed to be the consensus at Las Vegas Little Theatre’s production of Ray Cooney’s “It Runs in the Family.”

It’s apropos, since Cooney’s farce contains all the elements required of the genre, in the British style: outrageous scenarios, lies, mistaken identities, cross-dressing, slapstick, and the ever-important slamming doors.

Set in the doctor’s lounge of a hospital in London, the story begins as Dr. David Mortimore rehearses a speech he is about to give to a gathering of doctors, which may lead to a Knighthood.

Ironically, he is interrupted by a vestige of his past — old fling Jane Tate, who appears with an unexpected gift, the 18-year-old son he never knew he had.

Since his wife Rosemary and boss Willoughby are present and there are various hospital denizens in and out, all manner of hell breaks loose as Mortimore frantically attempts to cover up this unwelcome news and enlists goofy friend Dr. Hubert Bonney to help.

A farce may not demand much of the audience, but for director and cast, precision is a must.

As directed by David Ament, the show delivers on the promise of hilarity, although it’s not quite there as far as timing and choreography go.

There is a nice build from beginning to end as deceptions spiral out of control, and the show gets funnier with momentum; but there are lost opportunities for gags and a lack of follow-through.

Ament wisely keeps his actors in the believable realm, however, keeping their mannerisms natural.

Shawn Hackler as flustered “nincompoop” Dr. Bonney epitomizes farcical acting. He has a likable quality about him and has complete control of his body, so that he is able to pull off gags with ease. He follows through on every gesture and subtle facial expression to enhance the comedy without overdoing it, while keeping his energy level high.

The lovable Dr. Bonney and uptight Dr. Mortimore, portrayed by Marty Weaver, should work as a duo, playing off each other and their differences as comic foils.

They don’t always succeed here, however, as Weaver tends to hold his Mortimore back and doesn’t give a frantic quality the role requires. He is relaxed in the part, though, and grasps his manipulative, unlikeable personality.

Sarah Spraker as Rosemary Mortimore ably displays an innate comic ability as the British, upper-class wife. Her regal poise gives a nice contrast to the working-class type of Jane Tate, underplayed by Ela Rose.

Mark Avis has an authoritative bearing as Sir Willoughby Drake, and Kyle Jones gives Leslie Tate a defiant punk with the personality of an idealistic kid.

Michael Drake as Bill and Monica Delgado as Mother are both cast in way older roles, perhaps out of necessity; but it is distracting and diminishes the importance of their characters to the plot.

Ron Lindblom’s set design is effective and gives a nice, added touch, a panoramic photo of the London skyline as seen through the window upstage.

The lighting design of Ginny Adams illuminates this picture perfectly, giving the impression of a bright, sunny day; and while Jennifer McKee’s costume designs are appropriate to each character, in some cases she misses the mark in fit.

“It Runs in the Family” doesn’t make demands on the intellect, but it does deliver the fun. Though difficult to pull off, LVLT makes this seem easy, presenting a very funny show.