Habeas Corpus

Alan Bennett's farce is revived in a sparkling production with Kristoffer Tabori directing a knockout cast that delivers not only the laughs, but also the nuances of the British playwright's humor.

With:
Arthur Wicksteed ... Robert Foxworth Muriel Wicksteed ... Shirley Knight Dennis Wicksteed ... JD Cullum Constance Wicksteed ... Nancy Lenehan Mrs. Swabb ... Paddi Edwards Canon Throbbing ... Alastair Duncan Lady Rumpers ... Nan Martin Felicity Rumpers ... Kaitlin Hopkins Mr. Shanks ... Andrew Robinson Sir Percy Shorter ... Hamilton Camp Mr. Purdue ... Charles Berendt

Alan Bennett’s farce is revived in a sparkling production with Kristoffer Tabori directing a knockout cast that delivers not only the laughs, but also the nuances of the British playwright’s humor.

The play is a modern Restoration comedy that tracks the domestic adventures of physician Arthur Wicksteed (Robert Foxworth), his wife Muriel (Shirley Knight), his son Dennis (JD Cullum) and his spinster sister Constance (Nancy Lenehan).

In their own way, each of these characters searches for love, or rather lust.

Arthur has his eye on the comely Felicity Rumpers (Kaitlin Hopkins), who has her eye (for quite different reasons) on Dennis. Muriel is dreaming of former sweetheart Sir Percy Shorter (Hamilton Camp), the diminutive president of the British Medical Assn.

Constance is also being pursued by the earnest and bumbling Canon Throbbing (Alastair Duncan), as well as by an itinerant salesman of breast enhancement appliances, Mr. Shanks (Andrew Robinson).

Add the wisecracking housekeeper Mrs. Swabb (Paddi Edwards), the highborn eccentric Lady Rumpers (Nan Martin), a suicidal patient (Charles Berendt), and you have a festive mix.

Farce is the most challenging theatrical form, and the cast and director Tabori keep it clicking.

Knight is terrific as the lonesome British matron, pining over chance compliments offered decades ago. Cullum and Hopkins are a winning combination as one of several odd couplings in the piece, as are Lenehan and Duncan.

Edwards is marvelous in a crucial role weaving the fast-moving scenes together. Martin, Camp, Robinson and Berendt also turn in excellent performances.

As a physician weary of the world but still lusting for the flesh, Foxworth brings a dimension to the lead character that conveys much of the deeper spirit of the piece.

The play is double-cast, with these actors rotating roles with a another talented group of performers.

Director Tabori deserves special praise not only for his skillful and insightful handling of the production, but also for double directing duties.

Kudosalso to set designers Deborah Raymond and Dorian Vernacchio for imaginative, artistic set, to composer Ross Levinson, sound designer Matthew Beville and costume designer Todd Roehman.

Habeas Corpus

(Matrix Theatre; 99 seats; $ 18 top)

Production: Matrix Theatre Company presents a comedy in two acts by Alan Bennett. Directed by Kristoffer Tabori.

Creative: Sets, Deborah Raymond, Dorian Vernacchio; lighting, Paulie Jenkins; costumes, Todd Roehman; composer, Ross Levinson; sound , Matthew Beville; choreographer, Nan Friedman. Opened and reviewed May 7, 1994; runs through June 26, 1994. Running time: 2 hr. 10 min.

Cast: Arthur Wicksteed ... Robert Foxworth Muriel Wicksteed ... Shirley Knight Dennis Wicksteed ... JD Cullum Constance Wicksteed ... Nancy Lenehan Mrs. Swabb ... Paddi Edwards Canon Throbbing ... Alastair Duncan Lady Rumpers ... Nan Martin Felicity Rumpers ... Kaitlin Hopkins Mr. Shanks ... Andrew Robinson Sir Percy Shorter ... Hamilton Camp Mr. Purdue ... Charles Berendt

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