When I hear the words “British” and “Farce” together, I usually think of the stereotypical over-the-top show involving: a. slamming doors, b. cheating spouses, and c. people running around a couch. The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s Key for Two breaks that mold into a thousand riotously funny pieces. Written by Dave Freeman and John Chapman, and directed with verve by Eleanore Tapscott, Key for Two is a candidate for the breakout best stage comedy in the DMV for 2017.
The show centers around unabashed “kept woman” Harriet (Charlene Sloan), a divorcee with a rent-paying problem in late 80s Britain. To make ends meet, she keeps a running affair with two married gentlemen callers (Gordon, played by Peter Harrold and Alec played by Cal Whitehurst, respectfully). To keep things running smoothly, she orchestrates their visits with precision and lies. Harriet’s racket cracks into pieces when both her suitors arrive at her flat on the same day, followed by their suspicious wives. Making things worse is the arrival of her old friend Anne (Dana Gattuso), and eventually Anne’s drunken husband Richard (Justin Latus). Mistaken identities, tip-of-the-tongue lies, and ongoing ruses hilariously follow.
The second act saw the laughs and the performances really reach the comical stratosphere when Gordon’s wife Magda (Elizabeth Replogle) and later Alec’s wife Mildred (Liz LeBoo) showed up. Replogle’s Magda really looked perplexed as Sloan’s Harriet incredulously kept on the ruse that her flat was a hospital.
Gattuso ran hither and yon on the stage in a frenetic state as both Anne and as Harriet’s hospital staff “nurse.” LeBoo’s Mildred, with her slit-shaped angry eyes, was the ultimate “straight woman” to Harriet’s foolish lies—making an already funny situation funnier. White-haired Harrold was every bit the British advertising executive. Whitehurst’s delivery was understated but hilarious. Latus played “drunk” and funny exceptionally well—not easy to do.
The directorial challenge for farces is to have actors consistently pick up their cues and keep the energy up throughout—especially after intermission; Tapscott did a masterful job of this. Travis Downing’s gorgeous proscenium set can best be described by three letters: w-o-w! Consisting of a bedroom and a living room, and adored with Charles Dragonette’s wall art and various decorative pieces, the set was not only amazing, but for once featured a couch that was used for pratfalls by Latus and Gattuso, not for a track meet.
The actors had charming British accents thanks to Dialect Coach Cheryl Sinsabaugh. Julia Cofrancesco’s costumes, including Sloan’s red dress and Gordon’s tan, double-breasted suit were spot on. Let’s tally it up, we’ve got two pratfalls, two foolish cheaters, and two pissed off wives.
I give Key for Two two thumbs up in the category of ‘Most Likely to Make Comedy Lovers Laugh Hard.” Run and buy tickets!
Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.