Why is it that the French excel in the multi-door sex farce? Perhaps it's their fearlessness in nastiness, pitting one churlish stereotype against another. Americans fail because they want everyone to be nice, and stupid, rather than unpleasant. Apple Hill Playhouse, which successfully tackled the Feydeau-esque Ladies Man with such success last month, grapples less successfully with Michael Parker's Whose Wives Are They Anyway?
The title, a play upon Whose Life Is It Anyway?, the 1972 drama about euthanasia, should be warning enough about poor judgment and the lack of taste to come. This 1998 comedy is less farce and more a rehash of mid-'60s sitcoms with a few gay "jokes" tossed in. The setting is a golf resort -- really Petticoat Junction's Shady Rest in spirit and occupancy -- run by a Mr. Mooney-ish, though female, manager, with the antiquated mindset of Beverly Hillbillies' Jane Hathaway or even Granny. Unfamiliar with basic racetrack lingo, she also calls suspect women "hussies."
The "plot" involves two buddy businessmen (I can just see Rock Hudson and Tony Randall) off for a harmless golf weekend when they run into their new boss. She's an Eva Gabor-in-Green Acres wannabe who's a dragon lady with employees, but a sob-sister Kate Bradley with their wives, and who's decreed that no man who vacations without his wife will work for her. Rather than be honest with their risking-a-discrimination-lawsuit boss, the guys build a cascade of lies and deceptions, including a running bit in drag with a five o'clock shadow visible to the back row.
While I cannot commend the play, I have to give the production and director Ron Ferrara their due regard. There's a lot of tricky timing and physical comedy, which the cast members (especially Mike Crosby) handle well. Heck, I give them credit for managing the dialogue with some sincerity and without choking on its inanities. The design and tech folks have done themselves proud with a complicated set.
If fast-paced action based on rampant cluelessness is your comedic cup of tea, Whose Wives Are They should go down just fine. For those who want more edge or depth, it can be difficult to swallow.
Whose Wives Are They Anyway? continues through Sept. 3. Apple Hill Playhouse, 275 Manor Road, Delmont. 724-468-5050 or www.applehillplayhouse.org