American playwrights really aren’t known as good farceurs. That designation usually is reserved for British writers such as Ray Cooney or perhaps a French playwright or two. But Michael Parker has been trying for several years to write the quintessential American farce and comes close with “There’s A Burglar in my Bed” which has just opened at Hopewell’s Off-Broadstreet Theatre.
It is certainly the best of his many attempts, which have titles such as “No Sex Please, We’re Sixty;” “Sin, Sex and the CIA:” “Hotbed Hotel;” and “The Amorous Ambassador,” All of which Parker has written for the American marketplace with only small success. “Burglar” has all of the necessary ingredients including a set with eight doors. In this show, they are not slammed so much as opened and shut with exquisite timing so that the clever cast can convey the intricate comings and goings at the Massachusetts beach house of William W. Worthington III and his somewhat bored wife, Ashley. He is filthy rich, she wouldn’t mind some of that money, and since both are currently cheating on each other and there is an expensive necklace resting in the beach house safe, an exchange of some cash might be expected.
Now add the customary hangers on -- a professional photographer, a specialist in marital dalliances; a friend perfectly willing to strip and pose for “nasty” pictures plus the inevitable mistaken identity scenes (lots of them) -- and there are laughs aplenty. And what the script doesn’t provide, director Bob Thick and a particularly adept company of mostly veteran actors works very hard to make up for. Barry Abramowitz and Vicky Czarnik have a wonderful time as the Worthingtons, ready to hug whoever walks into view. Her main squeeze is Edward P, Brookstone (Teddy) played by Brady Dunbar Niederere. His is “Buffy” DuVal (proper name Lorraine, played by Tess Ammerman). Meanwhile John Bergeron, as the photographer spends much of the evening (just two hours, including intermission) getting conked on the head and peeling herself off the floor. Alexis Newbauer spends the same time climbing into and out of her clothes. And Katie Munley tries to figure out why she is dressed more or less like a nun.
It’s not supposed to make much sense, so don’t worry if you have trouble following the plot. Have fun, laugh a lot and thank your lucky stars there is not a Christmas tree, a nutcracker nor an angel in sight. Incidentally, playwright Parker, who has spent so much time and energy writing “the American farce,” was born in the UK, acted on the London stage when he was 12, toured with the National Shakespeare Company and graduated near the top of his class at Britain’s famous Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
“There’s A Burglar In My Bed” will continue at Off-Broadstreet Theatre, 5 so. Greenwood Ave., Hopewell through Dec. 22. Performances run Friday and Saturday eves at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. The theater is always open one hour earlier for desserts and beverages. (609) 466-2766.