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Hillbarn takes on an English farce
January 23, 2013, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Nothing breaks up an evening like a bit of English comedy, which is what Hillbarn Theatre is showcasing starting this week with its latest show "See How They Run.”

Set in an idyllic English village in the 1940s, "See How They Run” tells the story of residents preparing for the threat of Nazi invasion. While that doesn't sound like a setup for a comedy, the two-hour show is a farce featuring mistaken identity, vicars, possible affairs and lots of meddling neighbors.

"It's just a lot of fun,” said director Ron Lopez Jr.

Lopez, who was approached to do the show while working on "The Producers” last year, wasn't familiar with it at first. But he enjoyed the story, the humor and gags so Lopez agreed.

Work began just after Thanksgiving with a break for the holidays — a little non-traditional for a show. But the cast came back knowing most their lines and ready to work, Lopez said.

Set in the fictitious village of Merton-cum-Middlewick, lead character Penelope Toop, played by Maureen O'Neill of Redwood City, is a former actress and wife of the local vicar, the Rev. Lionel Toop, played by Taylor Smith of Redwood City. The simple marriage becomes complicated when fights are staged, people come to town and try to avoid army regulations, and gossip quickly spreads the misinformation. Perhaps the real challenge is to the Cockney maid Miss Skillon, played by Helen Laroche of Palo Alto, who often ends up injured in the high jinks.

Philip King's "See How They Run” was first staged at the Peterborough Rep in 1944 prior to a British tour as an entertainment for the troops during World War II. The play received its first American production at Actors' Theatre in Plainfield, N.J., in 1949 and was adapted for the screen in 1955. Although best known for "See How They Run,” King, a British playwright who often performed on stage in his own works, wrote close to a dozen plays and co-wrote many more during his lifetime.

"See How They Run” will have performances Jan. 25 through Feb. 10 at Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City. Tickets are $23 to $38 for adults and seniors. Students 17 and under should call 349-6411. For more information visit

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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