Actor Fred Nelson is relishing the role of British neurologist David Mortimore, the comic villain at the center of the chaos in 2nd Star Production’s latest play, “It Runs in the Family.”
“He’s an idiot, and you keep watching, wanting to see how badly he’s going to screw up,” laughed Nelson, who first played the role 15 years ago.
“It’s great fun,” he said about the 1987 farce written by English playwright Ray Cooney and directed by Jane Wingard that runs from Feb. 22 to March 9 at the Bowie Playhouse.
The action takes place in the doctors’ lounge of Saint Andrew’s Hospital in London around Christmas time, with the married Mortimore getting ready to make a keynote speech that could earn him a promotion and a knighthood.
“He’s really not a nice guy,” laughed Nelson.“He’s sort of like John Cleese in ‘Fawlty Towers’ [a British sitcom from the 1970s with Cleese playing a hotel keeper].”
“He’s pompous and full of himself, and he’s constantly screwing up and blaming things on the people around him,” Nelson said.
An hour before the speech, a one-time nurse at the hospital shows up to let Mortimore know that the affair they had nearly 19 years ago resulted in a son who now wants to meet Daddy.
“He’s downstairs, drunk, high on pills and being chased by police,” said Nelson about his character’s wayward progeny.
“[Mortimore] gets embroiled with the son evading police and not telling his wife,” which sets in motion an ever-growing tissue of lies to back up Mortimore’s deception.
“If you’re going to tell a lie, it might as well be a whopper,” said Wingard, describing Mortimore’s views on the matter.
Meanwhile, the hospital staff is busy rehearsing for a charity event on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas when the Brits box up donations to give to the poor.
The mix leads to mistaken identities, rapid costume changes and nonstop action.
“There’s a lot of madness collapsing in on itself at any point in the play,” Nelson said.
But despite all the mayhem, the zany plots lines ultimately resolve themselves.
“There are a lot of surprises, it’s very funny, and there’s a very happy ending,” Wingard said.