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Center Stage

No sex in the funhouse

2/25/2015

Frances and Peter Hunter get a lot of visitors for newlyweds. The couple has a crazy and busy time of things in “No Sex Please, We’re British,” now enjoying an affable run at Newton Community Theater. Onstage, every knock on the door sets off fresh laughs. Indeed, the flat has so many doors you lose count. Is it five or seven? It can feel like a game of Whack-a-Mole.

“No Sex Please, We’re British.” Newton Community Theater. Feb. 26-28. 7:30 p.m.

“No Sex Please, We’re British.” Newton Community Theater. Feb. 26-28. 7:30 p.m.

In other words, the production generates the intimacy of theater, as if you’re in the whirl with Frances and Peter. The loony-ness of “No Sex” made for big box office in London, and the show remains popular. Ames mounted its version this past fall. Yet the 1973 movie proved a flop, largely because film has trouble creating the closeness of stage work. Movies roam the range, while theater boxes us in.

In this case, though, the box is a funhouse, and just about all the elements contributed. The hairpin turns of the plot — it starts with dirty pictures in the mail and escalates to women carrying whips — stood out against the clean, beige lines of the Hunters’ apartment. The design was by Harvey Ohlsthoorn, one of several locals on whom the company relies, and the lighting kept things bright and cartoonish. The wife’s go-go boots practically glowed in the dark.

The sound, on the other hand, interfered somewhat with the screwball effect. When someone spoke offstage, it mattered which room they were in (bed, bath or Crazy Town?), yet the voice always came from the same speaker overhead. Another problem was Larry Daft, as a moneyed widower looking for new love. He never really registered due to his hit-or-miss British. Tammy Sposeto, as the object of his affections, lacked the right snooty edge.

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Sposeto developed as things went on, though, and another secondary player, Mike McKenna, put across the role of the local Bobbie in a terrific, gruff Cockney. More importantly, Conor Fudge as Peter and Amy Klobnak as Frances generated both the heat of young lovers and the exaggerations of overgrown children. Fudge’s grin could suggest he’d tightened a pair of bolts at the hinges of his jaws. Klobnak kept her hands going, framing a face now sardonic, now bewildered.

Better yet, this toybox comes with a windup clown, namely Lonnie Appleby as the hapless Brian Runnicles. Appleby has done film and TV, and here he hooks us with his first hyena-like laugh. Throughout, he offered fumblethumbs proof of the complaint from one dominatrix: “You people aren’t normal!”

Such professionalism reflects the quality of the setting: a community center auditorium with a sizeable backstage and tech area that is better than you’d find in many city venues, owing something to a history going back more than 50 years. Productions have included an annual musical (Newton did “Les Miserables” before the Playhouse) and the occasional serious work like “Doubt.” Des Moines culture extends east beyond the State House.

Overheard in the Lobby: Des Moines Young Actors continues with “Little Women,” directed by David Van Cleave at the Social Club. CV

 

John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.

 

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