Two Into One

is the 10th Ray Cooney farce produced by Hedgerow Theatre. It's also the 10th with longtime company members Zoran Kovcic and Susan Wefel. And it's the second Cooney work featuring Kovcic as the hapless George Pigden, personal secretary to extramaritally inclined member of Parliament - wait for it - Richard Willey (Shaun Yates) and his lusty wife Pamela (Rebecca Cureton).

The first was Out of Order, which premiered in 1981. The 30th anniversary seems an appropriate time to remind audiences why the company keeps turning to this particular Brit for its summer entertainment.

Cooney, kind of the Jerry Lewis of the form (they love him in France), has written something like 20 farces, with one, Run for Your Wife, breaking records as the longest-running comedy on London's West End.

The man is simply a wizard when it comes to this particular formula.

Wives bed secretaries, husbands bed other men's wives, identities are mistaken, and perhaps most important, the show's second act features six doors (set design also by Kovcic), slammed emphatically and often. However, the farce is definitely showing its age, creaking with comic punch lines that hinge, for example, on Willey's declaration that Pigden is a "pornographic poofter."

As directed by Jared Reed, the production has plenty of mayhem, but less zing.

Its pace stumbles behind its dialogue, and while Yates smirks with a sleazy politician's hubris, and Kovcic sags his shoulders in resignation early and often, Susan Wefel, as Lily Chatterton, a take-no-prisoners and wear-sensible-shoes-while-doing-so parliamentarian sponsoring a vice bill, makes you wish the rest of the cast could meet her more than halfway. Much like Pigden, this production suffers from a lack of confidence.

Even so, it is still plenty of fun. Kovcic brings a real sympathy to his beleaguered character, and if Cureton is far too young for hers - either to play a convincingly bored homemaker or an amorous partner for Kovcic - she at least has a good time racing around in a nightie, her voice dreamy, her eyes cast in perpetual bedroom mode.

Cooney, at least here, is no Ayckbourn, and in that sense, Two Into One is best enjoyed at face value. It's light and fizzy, suited to the season like Prosecco. Clearly, it has similar issues with aging, and goes down just as easy. That's why Hedgerow keeps bringing this playwright back summer after summer, and why its audiences keep returning to cool off with another sip of his bubbly product.

Two Into One

At Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Rd., Media, through Sunday, Aug. 7.

Tickets: $10-$25.

Information: 610-565-4211 or HedgerowTheatre.org.

EndText