It doesn't get much more madcap than the antics onstage in Lamb's Players Theatre's See How They Run. The title of this farce written by Englishman Philip King in the early '40s comes from the nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice," but it might well describe the cast's behavior from the get-go.
An obvious but often amusing comedy in three quick acts, See How They Run puts its actors through frantic paces—chasing each other from one stage exit to the other, throwing open and slamming closed doors, wrestling on the carpeted floor of what is supposed to be a serene vicarage in fictitious Merton-Cum-Middlewick. In other words, the elegant set (by Mike Buckley) portraying an English country vicarage hall in 1944 becomes a gymnasium.
What a workout it gets. As dueling vicars in clerical collars, the Rev. Lionel Toop (Jason Heil), American soldier in disguise Cliff Winton (Brendan Farley) and a shifty German spy (Jeffery Jones) wield golf clubs, cricket bats and handguns, all in fun, as they play Ring Around the Vicarage at feverish speed because—oh, does it really matter why?
Myra McWethy, as the priggish Miss Skillon, gets to get drunk, falling over the sofa in a stupor or sleeping it off behind a closet door. Ida the vicarage maid (Kerry Meads) has the run of the place and makes the most of it, Cockney-ish accent included. Add the free-spirited vicar's wife Penelope (Cynthia Gerber), her stuffed-shirt bishop uncle (Jim Chovick) and the redoubtably hilarious Brit Ron Choulartan, as the bumbling legal authority on the premises, and you have mistakenidentity mayhem to spare.
Director Robert Smyth's choreographing of his cast, which seems to always have someone pratfalling or moving at break-neck speed, boasts more energy than King's script, the nuts and bolts of which we've seen in broad farce many times.
See How They Run begins with "See" for a reason: This is a sight-gag comedy first and foremost. In that vein, the sight of four clergymen on stage at the same time, in Act 3, will be enough to terrify anyone who has a guilty conscience. But like everything else in this show, the reality isn't reality at all, and only a few of the players are who they seem to be.
See How They Run runs through Sept. 23 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. $26-$50; lambsplayers.org
A Midsummer Night's Dream: the Musical: The Bard's classic comedy meets popular music from the 1960s. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it's in previews now, and it opens for real on Sept. 7 at the San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Center in Encinitas. intrepidshakespeare.com
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds: An abusive mother makes life difficult for her two daughters in this Pulitzer Prize-winning 1964 play. Opens Sept. 7 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Perfect Wedding: In the opener of Scripps Ranch Theatre's 34th season, a man wakes up next to a naked, unfamiliar woman on his wedding day. Preview Sept. 7; opens Sept. 8 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Pippin: A boy prince searches for the meaning of life in this reimagined version of the 1971 musical. Runs in previews Sept. 6 through 14; opens Sept. 15 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
The Underpants: In Steve Martin's adaptation of a 1910 farce, a man is flummoxed when his wife's underwear simply won't stay on. Runs in previews Sept. 5 through 7; opens Sept. 8 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Anything Goes: This plot of this farcical musical, involving hijinks on a passenger ship, almost doesn't matter; this one's all about the Cole Porter tunes. Through Sept. 8 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm Still in Therapy!: Yep, it's the one-man sequel to My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm in Therapy!, written by and starring funnyman Steve Solomon. Presented by Le Roy Associates, it runs through Sept. 9 at the Lyceum Space at Horton Plaza, Downtown.
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women: The evolution of women's roles in society is explored through past top-40 hits in this upbeat musical. Extended through Sept. 9 at the Lyceum Stage at Horton Plaza. lyceumevents.org
The Lion in Winter: It's Christmastime in 1183, and King Henry II must decide which one of his three sons will be his successor to the throne. Through Sept. 15 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
The Mystery Plays: The one-act plays in question are The Filmmaker's Mystery and Ghost Children and take their cues from Alfred Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone. Presented by Ion Theatre, it runs through Sept. 15 at BLKBOX @ 6th & Penn Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
An Iliad: Homer's epic poem about the Trojan War is adapted, using contemporary language, into a one-man show by actor Denis O'Hare and director Lisa Peterson. Through Sept. 19 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
2 Across: A crossword puzzle is a metaphor for life in this comedy about a man and a woman riding an early-morning BART train. Through Sept. 23 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
See How They Run: This World War II-era farce, set in Britain, takes the mistaken-identity device and runs wild with it. Through Sept. 23 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Twelfth Night; or, What You Will: After a shipwreck, much love is professed and identities are mistaken on the Adriatic coast in Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Free performances runs through Sept. 23 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Inherit the Wind: The Old Globe takes on the classic fictionalized version of the true story of the Scopes "monkey trial," at the end of which a high-school teacher was convicted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution. The 1955 play used the trial as a parallel to the McCarthyism of the era. Through Sept. 25 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
Richard III: King Edward IV's malicious, manipulative, murderous little brother lusts for England's throne, takes it and presides over a reign of terror in Shakespeare's history play. Through Sept. 29 in The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
As You Like It: If it's a case of mistaken identity, it must be the Bard. The story of lovebirds Rosalind and Orlando in the Forest of Arden is part of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 30 in the Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Nov. 25 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Once Upon a Wedding: Zaniness abounds during a wedding gone horribly wrong, and it does so while patrons dine aboard a boat making its way around Mission Bay, beginning at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Runs on various dates through Dec. 13. onceuponaweddingthemusical.com
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net