By Deirdre Parker Smith
Good exercise for your sides: Piedmont Players’ production of “It Runs in the Family.”
After the show, you’ll probably be wheezing from all the laughing you’ve done at this Ray Cooney farce, starring Salisbury’s best comedic actor, Gary Thornburg. Thornburg earned entrance applause on opening night and twice more following fiercely frantic bits.
Pairing up with him is the multi-talented Justin Dionne, who is Piedmont’s marketing director and a Catawba College alumni.
As Dr. Hubert Bonney (Thornburg) and Dr. David Mortimore (Dionne) they get involved in a complicated maze of lies, thanks to Dionne’s character, and must act and react with sharp timing throughout the two-hour farce.
The story — in its least complicated format — is that one of the doctors fathered a child with one of young nurses 19 years ago, and she has come with the boy to reveal the truth.
There’s a subplot about an important lecture Dr. Mortimer is scheduled to give and a few thousand other details.
You do have to keep up, but that’s not hard — a few garbled words on opening night can be attributed to the furious pace of the action.
But the audience applauded spontaneously several times during the performance on opening night, and the hard-working cast deserved it.
Cale Evans plays Dr. Mike Connolly, who’s more interested in rehearsing for the Christmas pantomime than playing doctor. Evans is goofy and looks good as a lady.
Bill, played by Piedmont veteran Darrell Brown, is just delightful as a slightly daft patient who is thrust into the action and manages to keep up — much to the annoyance of Dr. Mortimer, whose lies get so complicated.
Poor Lori Van Wallendael goes out on a ledge, literally, for her part as matron, and is subject to some pretty physical comedy. Hope her bruises heal by Christmas.
Jane Tate, the formerly naughty nurse, is played by the lovely Jessica Walker, who is just bossy and beautiful enough to make several men want to accommodate her.
Walker’s father, Martin Walker, is the uptight Sir Willoughby Drake, chief of St. Andrews Hospital (yes, we’re in London). He blusters and threatens and flusters till his hilarious final exit.
Kelly Lineberry is Dr. Mortimore’s wife, Rosemary, who knows more than he can imagine.
The young, wild-haired son of Nurse Tate, Leslie, is played by Catawba student Ryan Miles, with a marvelous quirky energy and a healthy dose of teen rebellion.
Nathan Prater is the police sergeant who has heard enough nonsense and is going to straighten the whole thing out.
Monika Borras Bigsby, more often backstage at Piedmont, is Dr. Bonney’s old mother, and proves there are no small parts.
Lizelle Restar rounds out the cast as a nurse dragged in to the crazy situation.
Watching director Reid Leonard’s cast engage in this comedy of lies and outlandish impersonations is good fun, full of laughs, pratfalls, sudden entrances and all the things that make a farce. It’s much more entertaining than the endless sappy Christmas movies on TV. Treat yourself to a night out with some of the funniest people around.
“It Runs in the Family” is underwritten by Salisbury Pharmacy and runs tonight and Saturday and Dec. 14-17 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 11. For tickets, call 704-633-5471 or go to www.piedmontplayers.com.
By Deirdre Parker Smith