Director Jim Schroeder has a passion for the works of English playwright, actor and director Ray Cooney but had never worked on his farce, “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” – until now.
Schroeder will bring the comedy to the Aiken Community Theatre for a two-week run, opening Thursday.
The play will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Jan. 23-25 and 2 p.m Sunday. Tickets prices are adults, $20; seniors age 60 and up, $17; and students and children, $12. For tickets, call 803-648-1438 or visit aikencommunitytheatre.org.
“I have been attracted to Ray Cooney for years,” Schroeder said in a news release from the theater. “'It Runs in the Family,' 'Caught in the Act' and 'Funny Money' are all shows of his I've worked on but never 'Move Over, Mrs. Markham.' I have found this play a pleasure to direct because of the wonderful cast. They are open and trusting to whatever ideas I have, and they have great ideas themselves.”
The cast members of “Move Over, Mrs. Markham” include Sophie Plowright in the title role of Joanna Markham; James Raby as the interior designer, Alistair Spenlow; and Amanda Stiles, the sexy au pair, Sylvie.
Chad Forrister is Mr. Philip Markham. Dustin Turner plays Henry Lodge, Philips' senior partner and husband to Linda Lodge, played by Jamie Turner.
Rounding out the cast are Garrett Maroney as Walter, a hopeful lover; Carla Tucker, playing Miss Olive Harriet Smythe, a prospective client; and Baylor Shull as the willing Miss Wilkinson.
Schroeder said the biggest challenge for the actors in a farce is the timing.
“The entrances need to be precise for the sight gags to work, and that can’t be worked out until the set is complete with working doors,” he said.
Set in the 1970s, the show will feature British pop music from the decade during the preshow.
“And the set will scream ’70s, including some shag carpet,” Schroeder said. “There will be a list of obscure British words and phrases to use on the preshow screen as part of a quiz to help audience members understand, so we will just have a straightforward, very funny play.”
Before moving to Aiken with his wife, Nancy, four years ago, Schroeder had a career in professional and academic theater settings.
After receiving an MFA from the University of Arizona, he tried for an acting career for a couple years and then got a job at Theatre Memphis as the production stage manager for 10 years.
He began teaching and was at Holmes Community College in Mississippi. There, he was the head of the theater department for 17 years, directing three plays a year and starting a touring group that took children’s plays to elementary schools in the local district.
As for his attraction to comedy, Schroeder said he found out early in his career that comedy was what the people wanted, so he focused on comedies and developed a love for farce.
“I think you must be careful when producing a farce to keep the pace,” he said. “It needs to move along cheerfully and not give the audience time to figure out the parts that don’t make sense. That does not mean that is runs on like a freight train. As you move toward the climax, you must have places to let the audience catch their breath. Entrances and exits have to be timed carefully to try to make it seamless.”
The production will be in the AECOM Center for the Performing Arts, the home of the Aiken Community Theatre, at 126 Newberry St. S.W.