To paraphrase the old saying, "Third time's a charmer."
That's the deal as Richey Suncoast Theatre fields the Ray Cooney farce Run for Your Wife for its third outing in the area in recent years — and still makes it fresh and funny.
The show was quite well done at Richey Suncoast in 1993 and at Stage West Community Playhouse in 2002, but director Bryan Sarabia and his cast have put enough new spin on the show to make it enjoyable even for those of us who had seen the previous two.
Most noticeable, Sarabia moved the setting from Cooney's London to apartments in New Port Richey and Tarpon Springs, with events happening at Community Hospital and along U.S. 19, people reading the St. Petersburg Times and, perhaps most important, no actor having to struggle to maintain a British accent.
As a result, a situation that can be difficult to follow when it's set in London can be easily tracked (and a lot of fun) when it's transported to local neighborhoods and mentions familiar landmarks.
It also helps that Sarabia's cast comprises seven of the area's best and favorite character actors — many of them Tommy Award winners — plus an eighth who adapts beautifully to the zanies around her.
In the lead is the adoringly discombobulated Bob Marcela (Horace in Hello, Dolly) as John Smith, a nondescript taxi driver who leads a most daring life.
It turns out that for years, John has been sedately married to the very traditional Mary (Joanne Larson, Mrs. Bell in Fame) in New Port Richey, while at the same time being heatedly married to the sexy Barbara (Star Verosic, Appassionata von Climax in Li'l Abner) in Tarpon Springs.
The wives' disparate personalities are immediately telegraphed by set designer Marie Skelton's excellent split stage — Mary with traditional art on blue walls on one side, Barbara with wild abstracts on chartreuse on the other — and costume designers Skelton and Elizabeth Foote's evocative outfits — Mary in dowdy granny gowns, Barbara in skimpy satin teddies.
John juggles the situation well, until one fateful night when he's driving his cab down U.S. 19 and sees a sweet little old lady being mugged by two thugs. He runs to the rescue, gets conked on the head, winds up at Community Hospital and is lauded as a hero in the local newspaper.
Things heat up for him when New Port Richey's tough Detective Throughton (Mark Lewis, Mayor Dawgmeat in Abner) grows suspicious about John's two different addresses, and the more genial Tarpon Springs Detective Porterhouse (Bill Schommer, Handyman in My Husband's Wild Desires) tries to patch up what he thinks is merely a marital dispute.
The situation gets more complicated when John's upstairs buddy, Stanley Gardner (Rich Aront, Mayor Shinn in The Music Man) tries to help out but only makes things worse.
Adding even more humor are Barbara's flamboyantly gay upstairs neighbor, Bobby (Joe Connolly, Everett in Crazy for You), and an overly aggressive reporter (Tim Allen, Evil Eye Fleagle in Abner).
For the most part, the cast handles the challenge of Cooney's rapid-fire, tongue-twisting script with few bobbles, though there were a couple of times on opening night when even the players mixed up which wife was where.
And even though Cooney's plot is all about a blatant adulterer, it's done in such a charming way that it all seems perfectly okay.