Make em Laugh

Ray Cooney's farce RunforYourWifeis indefensible.

It's funny—no doubt about it. But if certain questions are asked—like what is the audience laughing about, and why—then this Stages Theatre Production is far more problematic.

Yes, this is justa silly English farce about a harried taxi driver who gets his picture in the paper after a mugging. The problem, for our hero, is that he's married: to two women, neither of whom knows about the other. The play is all about the desperate attempts he and his upstairs male neighbor concoct in order to keep his fragile life from spinning wildly out of control. The most desperate gambit is when the two men hastily pretend to be gay in order to divert the cops—and his wives.

It's a completely implausible setup. But this is the type of play that works as simple, check-your-mind-at-the-door theater. The problem, for at least one audience member, is that director Brian Kojac transplants the fun from bustling '70s London to far-less-bustling '70s Fullerton and Placentia. That spares us some bad English accents, but it also turns a silly, meaningless play into one about a specific place: right outside our door. Regardless of period, we're now not laughing at ridiculously over-the-top English people, but a version of our friends and neighbors.

And in this play, our friends and neighbors live in a far simpler time: when gays were grotesque caricatures and cross-dressing pansies content to hide in the closet, suck each other off in silence and leave the rest of us God-fearing, tax-paying white people alone.

It's all shamelessly outdated, adolescent and cheap. It's not just that the play wheels out every tired reference to gays as effeminate girly-men (pantywaists, tinkerbells, poofers, etc.) or that the other characters are appalled by the notion that there might be gay men in their midst, or that the one overtly gay character is embarrassingly swishy: it's that everything happening in this play concerning homosexuals reduces them to a type—a subhuman type. Language, as any good semanticist will tell you, is power. And by rendering those who are different as silly, laughable faggots, the play strips them of any power or even resonance as individuals.

That may have been the Orange County we natives were born into (it's only slightly ironic that a building bearing the name of former Congressman William Dannemeyer—the elected official who actually suggested quarantining AIDS patients—is located a quarter-mile away from the theater), but it's not the OC we live in today. Yet based on the fact that 80 percent of the audience that saw RunforYourWifethe night I did was well within the bluehair age grouping—and was deliriously embracing this play—it's not hard to surmise that they miss those good ol' days.

And that's the kind of audience pandering we could all do without.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *