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Break out the heavy-duty door hinges. It's another farce at Swift Creek Mill Theatre. 

Slamming Doors

Director Tom Width has perfected the art of putting on British farces. Over the past three years, Width has staged five raucous calamities of comedy at Swift Creek Mill Theatre — or maybe more, I've lost count. This month, the seasoned director brings his talent to bear on another British import, "It Runs in the Family," and it's a good thing he has so much experience in this genre. Thanks to Width's skill and the help of a few outstanding supporting players, this formulaic door-slammer generates generous laughs and comes off only half as hackneyed as it is.

The source for a large amount of the humor is the setting, Saint Andrew's Hospital in London, where Dr. David Mortimore (Joe Pabst) is preparing to deliver an important lecture to an international congregation of neurologists. An hour before the lecture is set to begin, former nurse Jane Tate (Julie Fulcher) shows up and delivers some surprising news: Eighteen years ago, she bore Dr. Mortimore's illegitimate son. Not only that, but the father-hungry lad, Leslie (Adam Mincks), has come to the hospital, determined to find out which doctor is his dad. To cover up the scandal, Dr. Mortimore lets loose with a near-pathological flurry of lies that grows ever more ridiculous. Eventually the action escalates to include attempted suicide, several silly costumes and a large dose of narcotics.

The medical setting allows for a multitude of doctors, nurses, administrators and patients to parade through the plot, adding their own complications to the situation. But while the action is continuous, it also feels overworked and not particularly original, at least in the first act. Only after intermission do the proceedings approach the surrealistic heights of exceptional farce. This is largely due to the performance of Jim Smith as Dr. Hubert Bonney who becomes Dr. Mortimore's reluctant accomplice. To distract other characters at various times, he is forced to adopt an Irish accent, break into song, and even tap dance. Smith pulls all of this off with remarkable style while maintaining a hysterical manic edge.

Also supplying numerous second act smiles is John Hagadorn. He plays an elderly patient who gets wheeled into the midst of the mayhem and becomes convinced that it is all being engineered for his enjoyment. Though confined to a wheelchair most of the time, Hagadorn is as nimble as ever, his comic cluelessness sustaining the show's momentum in the later scenes. Another cast standout is Mincks as the wayward son. His spiky-haired, nose-ringed character could have been an easily dismissed cliché, but this young actor imbues him with humanity and even a bit of charm.

The set, also designed by Width, is strictly utilitarian, distinguished mostly by its four well-used doors. Width saves most of his flair for his direction; he keeps the pace moving briskly and exploits the play's absurdities for maximum comic benefit, particularly in the second act. Though the farce formula grows too familiar when repeated so often, the Mill's productions will never grow tiresome as long as Width is at the
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