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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of Het Theater van de Lach's most fondly remembered farces, "Een
Kus van een Rus" is firmly set in another era (i.e. the previous
century), but that is part of it's charm. As usual John Lanting
surrounds himself with a fine cast of physical performers, several of
whom (Flip Heeneman, Lex de Regt) even manage to steal scenes from him,
while John still remains at the center of the laughs (by playing the
part the audience identifies with most). Ray Cooney's plays always
fared well in the hands of Lanting and company, and this lively play
has plenty of surprises, intrigues and mistaken identities to make a
couple of hours fly by like in no time. This may have something to do
with the fact that new characters are introduced right up until the
very end (including a very late appearance by the legendary Willy
Walden's brother Gerard).
Just like in 1978's "In De Kast, Op De Kast" Johan Sirag and John Lanting are playing a politician and a political aide, respectively, only this time around Sirag is supposed to be kept in the dark about all the goings on (whereas in the previous play, he was the one coming up with the biggest lies). The scene opens as a retired navy admiral now serving at the Dutch ministry of Defence, Commandant Snijders (Sirag) arrives home after spending the afternoon watching ballet at the Russian embassy. Of course, in 1981, when this show was first broadcast, the cold war was still freezing and the notion of a Russian ballet dancer defecting to the west was still considered topical. With the help of Dutch ballet dancer Sabine Zorelli (Karla Wildschut), the energetic Russian Joeri Petrovian (Frits Hassoldt) managed to sneak into the trunk of the Comandant's car. Once at the seaman's stately Den Haag home, Snijders artistic daughter, Nannie (Ellen Vogel) is willingly drawn into the conspiracy. Not quite as willing to join in is the gardener Willems (Flip Heeneman), who used to serve with her father. Naturally the Commandant himself is kept in the dark, and he conveniently goes off fishing.
Soon the police, the Russian ballet company and a security-man are calling, all of whom have to be diverted with different stories. Nannie convinces her new boyfriend Boebie Bus (John Lanting as usual playing a lucky charm double B's character name) to dress up in her father's uniform and get rid of security-man De Laat (Lex de Regt). Unfortunately De Laat won't leave without an encoded message (which only the real Commandant can decipher), so they proceed to get the service guy drunk. As soon as the Commandant returns home, Boebie has to take up the guise of another admiral (this is, because, as usual in this sort of story, the navy man had not yet met his daughter's latest flame).
Bus is having quite a bit of trouble keeping his two fake identities separate (Sabine is playing the wife as one commandant and the mistress as the other, while his real lover Nannie is pretending to be the maid). Meanwhile, the Russian (now wearing Boebie's suit instead of his more conspicuous tights) keeps popping up everywhere and misunderstanding everything. For lack of a better idea, Joeri is then introduced to the Commandant as Nannie's fiancée. The household also has to content with a policeman (Hans Beijer) snooping around, Russians waiting at the gate and the imminent return of the real Mrs. Snijders (Berry Kievits). It all becomes very confusing for the character on stage, yet manages to remain relatively easy to understand for those watching from the audience). Eventually Boebie is persuaded/forced to act as the defector's decoy and dress up in tights (always good for a laugh). Ray Cooney's script piles on the gags and misunderstandings fast and plentiful, making it no wonder that 'Een Kus Van Een Rus' is still considered a classic amongst lovers of the genre, despite it being severely out of date by now.
8 out of 10
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