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British comedy comes to life in dinner theatre

Posted on 03.08.2017
Pix of the dress rehearsal performance of "Move Over, Mrs. Markham" for the annual dinner theater show in Schwitzer on February 21, 2017.  From the promo:  "Hilarity ensues when three couples arrange secret rendezvous in the same London apartment. Playwright Ray Cooney is known for his many farces staged in London’s West End, including last year's Dinner Theatre hit Out of Order. "  (Photo by D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

Pix of the dress rehearsal performance of “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” for the annual dinner theater show in Schwitzer on February 21, 2017. From the promo: “Hilarity ensues when three couples arrange secret rendezvous in the same London apartment. Playwright Ray Cooney is known for his many farces staged in London’s West End, including last year’s Dinner Theatre hit Out of Order. ” (Photo by D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

Love, deception, adultery, misunderstandings, mistaken identities and doggie-woggies are part of this British farce comedy and this year’s dinner theatre production at the University of Indianapolis.

The play, written by Ray Cooney and John Chapman, takes place in Joanna and Phillip Markham’s flat in London in 1969. Joanna (played by sophomore theatre education major Mary Schreier) agrees to let her friend Linda Lodge (played by freshmen theatre major Katie Carter) use her flat to have an affair while she and Phillip are out. However, Phillip (played by alum Kirk Fields) has promised the flat to his friend and Linda’s husband Henry Lodge (played by Noel Robleto). Meanwhile, interior designer for the Markhams Allistair (played by Stephen  Cox) is planning to spend the evening with the Markhams’ au pair Sylvie (played by Carly Wagers) while they are out.

After a series of misunderstandings, Phillip begins to believe that Joanna is cheating on him with Allistair. Outraged by the accusation and Phillip’s walking out on her, Joanna decides to have an affair after all. However, after a series of interruptions,  misunderstandings,  switching of identities and a comedy of other errors, Phillip and Joanna make up at the end.

Performed in the Schwitzer Student Center Dining Hall, “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” previewed on Feb. 23 and ran until Feb. 26. The show also ran from March 2 through March 4.

Dinner started at 6:45 p.m. and featured popular British food such as breaded fish, chips (French fries) and Dutch potatoes.

Schreier said that this play is an incredibly funny production, and as a first year transfer student from the University of Oklahoma, she was not expecting to earn the role of protagonist Joanna Markham, whom she admired for being a strong yet impulsive woman who is true to herself and not childish, even though she often gets what she wants.

“I had no desire to be any specific character until I really delved into the play,” she said. “And it was right before callbacks that I decided I was really going to push for Joanna Markham. I really wanted that role. Being a first year transfer, I didn’t think there was going to be any chance in hell that it was going to happen, but we’re here now, and I am the part.”

Schreier said that while she was thrilled to be Joanna, there were some difficulties in developing the character, including speaking with a received pronunciation British accent, which Schreier had never done before. Schreier said the play also was very different from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a UIndy production she had performed in previously as Marcy Park.

“Finding Marcy Park as a character was really difficult for me. When I was cast in that part,  I was very surprised because she is good at everything, and that’s something very foreign for me because I’ve always had to work hard for everything in my life,” Schreier said. “So trying to become a person who is naturally good at everything and trying to make that character built around that was really, really difficult. I ended up making her a pageant girl and sort of going with a gimmick. It was easy to find Marcy Park with a gimmick. With Joanna Markham, she can’t be a gimmick. She has to be realistic while being in this unrealistic situation.”

Carter said that her character Linda, who is Joanna’s best friend, is impulsive and someone who usually thinks that minor setbacks are terrible. While Carter was at first drawn to the role of Sylvie, the Markhams’ au pair, she soon found herself connecting to Linda.

“The first time at callbacks, I really felt this connection with her, and I was like, ‘This is me.’ I relate to her in a lot of ways. And so from then on, my mission is like, ‘I have to be Linda. There’s no other part I want to be,’” Carter said. “I love that she thinks if something goes wrong, that the world is ending. I relate to that on a spiritual level.”

Schreier said that she had a lot of fun with this production and that this was the kind of production audience members could have fun with as well.

“Farce is sticking everybody in one place who should never meet and seeing what happens,” she said. “That’s sort of the basis that it revolves around, and that is exactly what this play is.”

The next theatre production will be the Student Directed Productions. A free preview will take place on April 20 at 8 p.m., and performances will be April 21-23 and April 27-29 at 8 p.m.  in the studio theatre in Esch Hall.

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