American farce has a rendezvous in Bowie for 'Sex Please'

Bowie Community Theatre's current production of "Sex Please We're Sixty," written by the husband-and-wife comedy team of Michael and Susan Parker, is dubbed "an American farce" — and is welcome entertainment for audiences in search of easy laughs.

A large and appreciative audience at a recent performance responded to the onstage frivolity with hearty laughter.

In his program notes, BCT president Jeff Eckert notes that the first show of the company's 48th season represents a radical departure from last season, which presented largely undiscovered recent dramas.

In addition to "Sex Please," the new season also includes "The Murder Room" and "Flyin' West.

"Sex Please We're Sixty" takes a sharp turn toward mindless comedy. British native Michael Parker emigrated to Canada at age 23 and eventually worked in Florida theaters, where he produced American farces. Starting in the late 1990s, he integrated the best devices of a British farce into an American setting, turning out at least one American-based farce a year.

In 2006, he co-wrote his first play with his wife, Susan, and two years later they wrote "Sex Please We're Sixty," having hit upon a winning formula of sexual comedy filled with caricatured characters in improbable situations.

Experienced Bowie director Jerry Gietka demonstrates his adaptability to this light form and assembles a cast adept at creating exaggerated characters intent on exploiting every situation with humor and spontaneity, all the while showing that even at age 60, life can offer a mind-boggling array of lively options.

At Mrs. Stancliffe's popular Rose Cottage Bed & Breakfast, women guests return year after year. Mrs. Stancliffe suspects the enduring attraction might be her next-door neighbor, 70-something Bud "the Stud" Davis, who is convinced of his irresistibility.

Another neighbor is daily visitor Henry Mitchell, a retired chemist and Mrs. Stancliffe's perennial suitor. Mitchell has developed a blue pill called "Venusia" to increase the libido of menopausal women. The untested pill is discovered by Bud, who exploits it for his own scientific breakthrough.

Excitement grows when three B&B guests arrive on the same day — romantic novelist Victoria Ambrose, hoping to find an unusual ending for her current work; retired researcher Hillary Hudson, a former colleague of Mitchell, who has invited her to participate in a scientific experiment; and Charmaine Beauregard, a Southern belle who is the one guest clearly returning for another tryst with Bud.

Introduced with Frankie Valli's "Walk Like a Man," Bud, played by Bill DeBrason in his Bowie debut, is intent in his mission to brighten the stays of lonely guests while enhancing his reputation as a Lothario. He goes over the top as he rushes from room to room of the three women, pausing only to boost his prowess with the blue pill on a table.

As Mrs. Stancliffe, Nina Harris is prim and businesslike, maintaining a cool distance from Mitchell, her faithful gentleman caller, who has been proposing marriage to her every afternoon for the past 20 years.

Also making his debut with Bowie, Marc Rehr, as Mitchell, displays a more complex character than is typically allowed in a farce. Insecure in his approach, Mitchell establishes a rapport with romance novelist Victoria Ambrose, who coaches him in the art of proposing romantically, and he is equally believable with his former colleague Hillary Hudson. In the desperate clutches of Charmaine Beauregard, Rehr's Mitchell reaches a comic peak matched only by his new camaraderie with Bud.

Acclaimed Bowie regular Joanne Bauer delivers another terrific performance as the novelist Ambrose, who has come to the cottage in search of literary inspiration. A consummate ensemble player, Bauer brings innate comedic flair in counseling Henry and also in exchanging barbs with Bud, or in seeking ideas from Charmaine.

Anne Hull, as Hillary Hudson, proves a most attractive professional colleague for Rehr's Mitchell and a worthy adversary to Bud, comically rejecting his advances.

Completing the trio of B&B guests is supercharged Southern belle Charmaine Beauregard, enthusiastically played by Barbara Webber. More than a match for the libidinous Bud, Webber's insatiable Charmaine drives Bud to return to those blue pills, which reduce him from stud to dud as he copes with hot flashes and mood swings.

"Sex Please We're Sixty" continues through Saturday, July 26, at Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie. Information: 301-805-0219 or Season tickets for all three shows are available at a 25 percent saving over individual prices.

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