REVIEW: ‘No Sex Please, We’re British’ offers two hours of silly delight
By Julie Brookbank
The title of the latest partnership venture between Dakota Wesleyan University and Area Community Theatre may prompt some to think that those “theater folk” have finally gone too far. In fact, “No Sex Please, We’re British” is a clever and comedic romp. In the true tradition of farce, a la Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde and others, this fast-paced, frenetic, funny show, directed by DWU theater director Daniel Miller, is two hours of silly delight.
Newlyweds Peter and Frances Hunter (Ian Hyde and LizBeth Spinar) are enjoying the first weeks of married life in 1971 in a stylish apartment above the English bank where Peter is employed. When Frances innocently orders what she believes is Scandinavian glassware from an ad in the back of a magazine, the couple, along with Peter’s excitable assistant (A.J. Miller), must dispose of a surprise flood of pornography that is delivered in ever-larger quantities. Compound the situation with the untimely arrivals of Peter’s mother (Melissa Vatter-Miller), his boss (Mike Baker), a police superintendent (Jonathan Kleinschmitt) and a bank inspector (Roger Allen) and the seeds of chaos are synergistically sown.
The first hurdle a cast must overcome when performing British farce is mastering British accents. The cast for the most part does an admirable job, particularly the spot-on Cockney tones of Madi Miller, a latecomer to the evening’s hijinks. A.J. Miller is the highlight of the show as Brian Runnicles. His blend of palpable anxiety and nervous energy as the high-strung bank cashier steal every scene in which he appears. Hyde and Spinar make a lovely newlywed couple. Vatter-Miller assumes the role of diva and delivers a couple of the script’s zingers. Baker and Allen, ACT veterans, round out a perfect set of memorable characters. The only jarring anachronistic visual for me was the deliveryman (Kyle Gilles) who for some reason appears in full London punk regalia, circa 1979.
Daniel Miller’s set is a pleasure to look at. All of the pieces have a purpose and are placed to enhance the action. The story depends on splitsecond timing and choreographed delivery, and only rarely does anyone in the cast miss a beat. The blocking, utilizing six doors, a sliding passthrough window, and a staircase, allows the actors to move like clockwork. You will particularly enjoy the acrobatic bit where both young Hunters and Runnicles must move stacks of books in the blink of an eye. And the technical details, including a television broadcast and an intercom system worked well.
Anyone who watches this show must remember that it was penned at a time when porn had real shock value. Items like those arriving from the Scandinavian Import Company were ordered from the backs of magazines and were delivered in plain brown wrappers. “Stag” films arrived on reels and were risqué entertainment for gentlemen’s gatherings; escorts were unknown outside of large cities. Today’s instant access to cable television and the Internet has softened the shock that “No Sex Please” may have once delivered. However, the success of this show is in its ability to return us to a simpler time— and a jolly good time, at that.
The show has performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are $10 or $12, depending on seats, and are on sale at the theater. More information is available at 996-9137 or www.mitchellact.org.