In your classic French farce, as much hinges on timing as on doors. Frothy fun is not so easy to pull off. The Ladies Man, Charles Morey's 2007 "freely translated" adaptation of Georges Feydeau's first hit play, Tailleur pour dames (1886), certainly presents a great temptation for breezy summer theater, as well as considerable production risk.
Apple Hill Playhouse, despite some very unfunny complications, delivers the laughs. Loads of 'em.
Dealing with this stress would be laudable under ideal, even normal circumstances. (And nothing is ever perfect in the theater.) But -- no joke here, folks -- director John Carosella fell ill 10 days before the opening. While he underwent emergency surgery, Ron Ferrara stepped in, thus indeed the show could go on.
The real-life backstage drama is not apparent in the lively, fast-paced comedy. Yes, the opening weekend had its occasional production glitches, but nary a missed cue. The eight-person cast is on high alert with quick entrances and exits, snappy dialogue (in real German as well as that "freely translated" English), and constant changes of facial expression. Indeed, Mike Crosby seems to have a rubber face as the lisping best-but-befuddled buddy of the apparent title character, played with constant surprise by Rick Butrow.
Of course, Feydeau's women are all to some degree waspish viragos, especially Shirley Ratner as the mother-in-law. Missy Newell, as the wife, and Adrienne Fischer, as the maid, are more the charming jeunes filles types just blossoming into harridanhood, with Jennifer Kwiatek as a lushly lusty would-be lover. Josh Milan manfully tackles the role of her Germanophonic husband-stooge, with Justin Mohr turning up the heat as the oversexed valet.
Plot? The Ladies Man is filled with confused identities and a full complement of sexual misunderstandings, entendres and suggestivenesses. Sure, there's the occasional anachronism (blame the playwright, if you care), predictable homophobia, underlying misogyny and various degrees of tastelessness -- something to offend everybody. There's also a lot of pain: The actors' faces must hurt after all those exaggerated double- and triple-takes, and the audience's faces hurt from laughing.
The Ladies Man continues through July 9. 275 Manor Road, Delmont. 724-468-5050, www.applehillplayhouse.org