Twenty-five years ago, Michael Lamport starred in the Toronto premiere of Run For Your Wife as John Smith, a taxi driver who secretly juggles two wives. On April 16, he’ll join the show again for Drayton Entertainment’s new production, this time taking on the role of Stanley, the peculiar neighbour. For Lamport, his experience has been like finding new rooms in an old house.
“It’s a completely different role, so it’s sort of odd,” says Lamport. “When I was learning lines, the lines kind of came back … but I realized the lines that came back stronger were the lines of John Smith. So I had to switch out of that mode and concentrate on Stanley’s lines.”
But when asked if the passage of time has changed his perspective on the play itself, Lamport says no. “Without giving anything away, the piece is patently absurd. The events could probably never, ever, ever happen, so I don’t have any different perspective. The perspective I still have is that it’s very, very, very funny.”
He continues, “I’ve always loved the show. When it was written in the early ‘80s, and then landed in Toronto in the late ‘80s, it was on the verge of being politically incorrect. Now, with a 2014 sensibility, some things are politically incorrect, but it’s so lighthearted that people will overlook that.
“I’ve always wanted to do it again, and having this opportunity is absolutely fantastic, because it really is a show that, in my opinion, just makes people laugh.”
First written in 1983, Run For Your Wife enjoyed a nine-year run in its first run in London’s West End. Like much of playwright Ray Cooney’s output, it’s a door-slamming sex comedy with all the shenanigans that entails. It has been widely noted that timing is the essence of comedy, a statement doubly true of farce – and a particular challenge with only two weeks of rehearsal.
“We all do actually have a rapport and respect each other,” says Lamport of the cast. “You’ve got to really trust your other actors more, perhaps, than in other plays, because once you get on this farce rollercoaster, you’ve got to trust that everybody is on the same train. You can’t pause to think about anything, you’ve just got to do it.
“In other theatres there is a longer rehearsal period, but we have basically just over two weeks here, so it’s very intense. You can’t really explore too much – you’ve just got to do it. But with farce, it’s not like, ‘What is my motivation for getting out the door?’ The reason to get out the door is to get off the stage.”
It’s also a common observation that comedy is the most difficult kind of acting. “I think there’s a big truism in that,” says Lamport.
“Comedy is difficult acting, but farce is much more difficult, because farce is a heightened awareness, and in farce, timing and physicality are absolutely everything. Although farce gets pooh-poohed a lot by some people, it is, in my opinion, the most difficult thing to do.”
One reason why farce gets pooh-poohed is because we’ve all seen it done badly. For example, an all-star 2012 film adaptation of Run For Your Wife turned the widely beloved play into “the worst British film ever” (to quote The Daily Mirror, in a typical review). I ask Lamport if there is a temptation to go too far over the top.
“We don’t go over the top – sometimes we go to the edge. Going to the edge is funny, and going over the top takes it into a different realm, and it can alienate the audience. If you keep it right at the edge, people will say, ‘Oh my god, are they going to fall into the precipice?’”
Run For Your Wife plays April 16-May 4 at the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge (46 Grand Ave. S.). Tickets range from $25 to $42, and can be purchased at www.draytonentertainment.com, or by calling 1-855-372-9866.