Pixel Tracker

Friday, December 14 , 2018, 12:46 pm | Fair 63º


Review: It’s All Relative with Circle Bar B’s ‘It Runs in the Family’

Bravo to director Joseph Beck and the cast for perfect timing, staging and acting

“Farce” once meant a comic interlude in a mystery play. Now, a farce is a stand-alone play or film depending on humorous situations rather than character development, generally with a lot of mistaken identity, fast entrances and exits, and slapstick humor.

Deborah Bertling plays Jane Tate, Sean O’Shea is the harried Dr. Mortimore, David Couch plays the befuddled Dr. Bonney and Tyler Gilbert is a teenage Leslie in Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre's production of It Runs In the Family.
Deborah Bertling plays Jane Tate, Sean O’Shea is the harried Dr. Mortimore, David Couch plays the befuddled Dr. Bonney and Tyler Gilbert is a teenage Leslie in Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre’s production of It Runs In the Family. (Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre photo)

It sounds light and simple, but this type of production requires precise timing and staging for the gags to work, and director Joseph Beck pulls it off magnificently in Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre’s current offering, It Runs in the Family.

Written by Ray Cooney, it takes place in a London hospital — to us Americans, the British-ness of it all makes it that much funnier — three days before Christmas.

Sean O’Shea is the harried Dr. Mortimore, attempting to prepare for an important speech but interrupted constantly. O’Shea is tall and lanky, and his performance seems a tribute to John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty, who he at times channels flawlessly. His full embrace of the character as the action becomes more and more frantic provides a strong center for the rest of the cast.

As the teenage Leslie questioning his parentage, Tyler Gilbert shows maturity and mastering of nuance, particularly in his transformation from sullen to joyful when he thinks he’s found what he was looking for.

David Couch (who produces Circle Bar B’s shows with wife Susie Couch) is brilliant as the befuddled Dr. Bonney. His razor-sharp comic timing and facial expressions attest to his many years of experience in comic theater, with certainly no lack of natural talent.

Christopher Lee Short as Dr. Connolly sets the bar for humor high in early scenes as he prepares for the annual Christmas pantomime, attempting to rally his colleagues’ participation to no avail. He has an admirable ability to throw himself unselfconsciously into this impassioned character, trying on one ridiculous costume after another in the midst of the growing madness around him. This is a far cry from Short’s last appearance, alongside Joseph Beck in Out of the Box Theatre’s production of Assassins, and he proves himself to be an actor of great range.

Jean Hall and Deborah Bertling head up the feminine population of the play, at either end of the silliness spectrum. Bertling plays a straight woman to the rest of the cast, as Jane Tate, a nurse who returns to the hospital after many years with a secret to reveal. Hall takes the prize for most delightfully over-the-top performance as the hospital matron. With a talent for physical humor as well as a grasp of the more subtle elements of comedy, she takes the production to heights of camp.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any sillier, Jerry Vassallo appears. With his rubber face and quirky delivery, he steals the second act as an elderly patient who is suddenly thrust into the midst of the shenanigans.

With the bonus of Circle Bar B’s idyllic setting and delicious barbecued tri-tip dinner included with each ticket (the garlic mashed potatoes alone are worth the price of admission), this show is the best entertainment value for miles around. If last weekend’s audience is any indication, keeping a straight face is not on the menu.

Tickets for It Runs In the Family are available for shows Aug. 26-27 and Sept. 2-3. Click here for tickets and information.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.