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May the farce be with you
Tybee Arts Association runs wild with 'There Goes the Bride'
"There Goes the Bride" in rehearsal.

Ray Cooney is the go-to guy when a community theater wants to put on a door-slamming English farce. British-born and well-versed in the blending of broad comedy, bawdiness and split-second timing, Cooney's plays are onstage, all the time, all over this country. You can't throw a stone without hitting one.

Most famous is Run For Your Wife; then there's Funny Money, Wife Begins at Forty, Not Now Darling, Caught in the Net ... and There Goes the Bride.

The latter laugh-fest is the Tybee Arts Association's new production, opening Friday, Aug. 7 and running through the 16th (six shows in all).

"This is actually the first farce that we've ever attempted to do," says Carol Ingham, who's been part of the group's theater program since its inception six years ago.

"They're very hard to do - I had no idea until we started in with rehearsals! Because there are eight characters and three doors, which means eight people go in and out of those three doors ... it's constant."

There Goes the Bride concerns one Timothy Westerby, a harried advertising man who receives a nasty knock on the head the morning of his daughter's wedding.

"Because of that, he has a vision of a 1920s flapper," says Ingham. "That's because she's part of a campaign he's working on. For the reception, they're having the Savoy do the catering. But he thinks that he's in England, and he's staying at the Savoy Hotel. It's really cute."

The flapper (named Polly Perkins) is only visible to poor Mr. Westerby, who begins to act, well ... strangely.

As Johnny Carson used to say, hilarity ensues.

"Because she's a figment of his imagination, she is just totally in love with him, and wants to ingratiate herself with him in every possible way," Ingham explains. "She of course does flirt with him, and kiss him, and he has to go all wobbly. ‘Getting to know one another' is a big theme with the two of them."

The manic pace quickens when the groom's family arrives; in vintage farce fashion, lies are told, secrets are hidden, doors are slammed. In Cooney farces, someone usually ends up locked in a closet in their underwear.

"Timothy is rather a stuffed shirt, so for him to be making this kind of change is such a shock to everybody in the family," says Ingham.

Bride is the fifth show Ingham has directed for the Tybee group since moving to the area from Naples, Fla. in 2003. She made one significant change in the script (which Cooney co-wrote with John Chapman): Instead of a tweedy English home, the action takes place in the heart of Atlanta. The idea was to make There Goes the Bride a bit more Georgia-centric. And, of course, no one had to mess with learning an English accent.

Not that the actors couldn't have handled it, if needed. "We're dealing with people who have done some community theater, every one of them," Ingham says.

"But the miracle of it was that when we were doing the casting, the right people showed up for it. Personality-wise, their character is very much like their own. I think that really helped a great deal."

There Goes the Bride

Where: Firehouse Arts Center, 7 Cedarwood Lane, Tybee Island

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 7, 8, 14, 15; 3 p.m. Aug. 9 and 16

Tickets: $12 public; $10 Tybee Arts Association members

Phone: (912) 786-5920