When it comes to humor, the Brits exhibit great contrast: highbrow and lowbrow with not a lot of brow in between. The same country that gave us Monty Python also produced Benny Hill. In the venerable tradition of sex farces, there's Shakespeare (damsel falls for donkey in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"), and then there's Ray Cooney.

In the current climate of economic gloom, generating two hours of carefree comedy may be considered heroic. Some might regard it as public service for the Engeman Theater to offer trifles such as Cooney's "Run for Your Wife." Director BT McNicholl, who previously polished his farce credentials at the Engeman with "Lend Me a Tenor" and "The Foreigner," extracts a few laughs in this torrent of double takes and double entendres.

Playing the role author-director Cooney reserved for himself, John Patrick Hayden strikes a deceptively ordinary pose for a working man with two wives. John Smith is a London cabdriver with a Mrs. Smith in each of two adjoining police districts. He keeps each wife in blissful ignorance of the other by juggling irregular hours while sharing beds in two flats, presented side by side on Court Watson's sunny, reverse-image set.

Smith's meticulous "shed-yule" unravels when he comes home after an altercation that leaves him bandaged and bewildered. But which home? Det. Sgt. Troughton (Doug Stender) wonders why he gave one address at the hospital and another to police on the scene.

Meanwhile, the other Mrs. Smith reports her husband missing and Det. Sgt. Porterhouse (John Little) arrives to investigate. Throw in a layabout neighbor (David Rossmer) at one residence and a fey gay (Stuart Marland) at the other and you have the makings of a slam-bang, slamming-door farce. The Mrs. Smiths (Laura Shoop and Audra Wahhab) are gullible, hysterical and indignant when appropriate. And the lines are delivered just so.

Yes, we caught ourselves laughing at a few: gay stereotypes, cop stereotypes and, of course, dumb-blonde stereotypes. You know the barrel has been scraped when one of the punch lines is, "I'm just being the good fairy."

What, no pie in the face?

WHAT "Run for Your Wife," a farce by Ray

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Cooney

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, also 3 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 21, at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

INFO $50; engemantheater .com, 631-261-2900