Just in time for election season, Richey Suncoast Theatre is doing the riotous sex farce The Sensuous Senator, the first of two farces by Brit-turned-American playwright Michael Parker in the theater's lineup this year. (The second is Hot Bed Hotel in January.)
Like its British comedy cousins Run for Your Wife, Wife Begins at Forty and Caught in the Net, The Sensuous Senator has a lot of naughty but nice dialogue, in-and-out door slamming, near-misses, compromising situations and comedic mayhem.
It revolves around Sen. Henry "Harry" Douglas (Bob Marcela, Smith in Caught in the Net), a longtime politician who has based his entire career on "family values" and being highly judgmental of others.
Just weeks before his election, Harry learns that his rather dowdy wife, Lois (Heather Clark, Mother Burnside in Mame), is going out of town for a few days. The sanctimonious senator hastily phones his sexy secretary Veronica (JoAnn Larson, Sally Cato in Mame) to come over for the night.
Veronica declines — "prior commitments," you know — so the senator calls his favorite D.C. "escort service" to send over a replacement.
Before the lady of the evening has time to show up, Harry's elderly neighbor, Congressman Clyde Salt (Rich Aront, Babcock in Mame) knocks on the door. It seems poor Clyde has locked himself out of his apartment and asks to spend the night at Harry's place. The senator reluctantly agrees, but then prepares a strong Mickey Finn for Clyde to drink, so Harry can go on with his party.
Just about then, Harry's young nephew, Jack Maguire (Nathan Sakovich, Sipose in She Loves Me), a first-term member of Congress, arrives, as does lovely young Fiona (Allison Iskowitz, daughter in Caught in the Net), the girl from the escort service. Shortly thereafter arrives Veronica, who has changed her mind about her other engagements and opted to show up at the boss' house instead.
In a matter of moments, the senator has gone from an empty to a full house, with more to come, including a brassy, sassy newspaper reporter from the National Intruder, Betty Morrison (Betty in No, No, Nanette), who is chasing down rumors about Harry's amorous adventures.
Of course, the suspicious goings-on attract the attention of a police officer (C.J. Fowler, Head Waiter in She Loves Me), who only complicates things.
The play was written in 1988, just about the time of the Gary Hart scandal. It debuted at the Delray Beach Playhouse in southeast Florida and since then has been produced from coast to coast and in several other countries.
Writer Parker began working at age 14 as an award-winning actor in England, and, after a huge success in the business world in Canada, retired at a young age, hopping from island to island in the Caribbean while jaunting to Florida to rekindle his acting career.
He once wrote that he noticed Florida audiences really like British farces (think anything by Ray Cooney), but that some of the British jokes and situations didn't travel well to American shores. So he began writing a series of shows similar to those British farces, only with American settings, predicaments and references.
Since 1988, Parker has written nine plays, many of which have become favorites in regional and community theaters.