Ray Cooney is Britain’s “master of farce”. He has had some seventeen plays performed on the West End, including Run For Your Wife, which ran for nine years and became its longest running comedy. Mr. Cooney may be in his 70’s but he is still full of creativity. He has just produced Tom, Dick, and Harry, which he co-wrote with his successful screenwriter son, and now he has opened a new musical (his first), Twice Upon A Time, at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, with plans to open productions in London, New York, and possibly Vegas.
Twice Upon A Time isn’t strictly a farce, though it has the farcical and bawdy elements for which Mr. Cooney is so well known. The musical also has a dramatic side, concerning matters of fidelity, psychiatry, past lives, and the idea of being willing to die for another as a sign of true love. The story concerns a young, hapless lawyer, Mr. Steven Tancred. Engaged to the boss’s daughter, he undergoes hypnosis to quit smoking but instead is transported back in time to 1929, where he is the getaway driver for the infamous Bugs Moran. Here all the fun and struggles begin.
I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it involves lovers in both time zones and the complications that ensue when Steven realizes that his past-life character, Johnny May, and the girl he loves might be heading for a bloody end. The musical jumps back and forth between these two time zones, with several actors playing dual roles as separate characters in each zone. This leads to even more confusion and misunderstanding. If you think of the twin zones as the two doors that are usually part of any farce, you can see the possibility of some awfully funny business.