By Bridgette M. Redman
Director Charles Burr demonstrates the secrets to successfully staging a British farce: Pacing, pacing, pacing.
In the Tibbits Opera House production of Ray Cooney’s “Out of Order,” the pacing is breakneck and slows down only long enough for the audience to recover from its laughter, and then just barely. The 10 performers jump in and out of three doors and a window, perform numerous pratfalls, lose their clothing and generally make a confusing mash of everything as Conservative Parliament Member Richard Willey (Aaron Mann) tries to dispose of a body (Dave Sucharski) without revealing his illicit one-night stand with secretary to a Labour minister, Jane Worthington (Amy Lamberti).
Willey calls in his personal secretary, George Pigden (Greg Pragel), to fix everything for him and things quickly spiral out of control. Mann and Pragel are perfect foils for each other as reluctant partners in crime. As the farce progresses they nearly switch roles with Mann starting out as the comedic Lothario and Pragel playing the straight man. By the end, George observes that he’s been wasting himself as his role takes on ever greater comedic proportions and “Mr. Willey” is forced to play along.
Burr never lets any of his characters rest. Even the “body” contributes to the physical comedy of “Out of Order” and performs a great number of visual jokes. The doors slam. The window slams. Identities are mistaken. It is a night of pure farce that races from lights up until after the curtain call.
Each of the actors is committed to the over-the-top characterizations and executes the timing with precision. The humor is so delightful that we can even forgive Cooney for having hotel employees behave in completely unprofessional manners and for forgetting to put locks on the doors.
Mann and Pragel own the stage with all of the action spiraling around them with increasingly insane antics. They make the most of every joke and are equally comfortable with the verbal and physical humor. But while the stage is their real estate, the other performers are more than equal as visitors to the property. Tony Milder’s Manager is conventionally disapproving, Ricky Wenthen’s Waiter/Bellhop milks every stereotype with increasing fervor as the night progresses, Lamberti’s Jane is sweetly naughty and flustered in her fright and Sucharski is surprisingly and fittingly lively for a dead body.
Mix in Dick Baker’s angry spouse, Katherine Lozon’s non-English speaking maid and Katie Quigley and Lindsey Spencer’s second-act surprise and sultry appearances and the farce is a smorgasbord of fun that keeps the audience laughing through the entire show.
While the actors hold most of the attention, the technical aspects are also worthy of note. Andy Broomell created a set with a window that actually slammed on cue and doors that worked perfectly under demanding circumstances. The set held up well to the abuse of the script and was beautifully appointed as an upscale London suite. Jessica Snyder clearly had a blast with the costumes, especially the nighties and “wedding” suits.
“Out of Order” is well worth the trip to Coldwater. It’s a great way to escape the heat and spend an evening in ribald merriment.
‘Out of Order’
Tibbits Summer Theatre, 14 S. Hanchett St., Coldwater. Wednesday-Saturday through July 30. Contains adult themes. $20-$26. 517-278-6029.http://www.tibbits.org