By John Quinn
Patrick O’Lear as Archie and Sara Felarca as Bridgett in “The Last Great British Sex Farce Ever!” Photo: Broadway Onstage
“British,” “sex” and “farce” are not words one expects to find associated. After all, as one character in “The Last Great British Sex Farce Ever!” explains, “The British don’t HAVE sex.” Eastpointe’s Broadway Onstage Live Theatre tries to turn stereotype on its head with this new take on a classic form, complete with multiple doors, mistaken identities and a little cross-dressing to add to the confusion. It’s a valiant endeavor yet leaves us unsatisfied.
The plot is a series of unexpected complications. The scene is not, as expected, Britain, but Clare, Michigan, where Sam and Bridgett run the Trout N’ Bass Motel. Since taking over from Bridgett’s retired father, they’ve watched the business go down the tubes, and Sam decides to change the motel’s marketing. In order to capitalize on the nationality of the motel’s only resident, Mona McGoohan, not to mention snagging the crew of a BBC documentary as clients, Sam exchanges the fishing prints at the renamed Torrey Inn for pictures of Merrie Olde England. Is there a problem? But of course! Mona is a hooker with a heart of gold and Archibald Cavendish, the BBC director, is a randy cad. Motel room doors start swinging in true “you just missed her” tradition when Archie’s wife and girlfriend (neither of whom knows about the other) trail him to Clare. If that needs a topping, both think they’re pregnant.
Farce is an absurdist style of theater. The plots are always over the top, the coincidences too far-fetched and the comedy too broad for anything but a madcap rendition. The script, by local playwright Dennis Wickline, has the right formula for mania, but only scratches the surface of this plot’s potential. On the plus side, we get into the fun with a minimum of exposition yet never feel like we’ve missed something. Overall, though while there are some fine bits of comedy here, the play lacks “bite.”
Farce also needs a little madness – the dos and don’ts of conventional theater can be tossed out for the night. Timing, though, is everything. Director Shirley Biggs-Urkshus and her capable cast keep those five doors on stage opening and closing with skillful precision. It is a disappointment, then, that the dialogue frequently drags and often kills a punch line. In a comedy as crazy as this one, nothing should be off the table for gags. Over-blown line reading, big takes – and triple takes – are permitted and welcome. In a sex farce, a little burlesque can go a long way. I’m a big fan of “safer sex,” but “The Last Great British Sex Farce Ever!” is just a little too safe.
‘The Last Great British Sex Farce Ever!’
Broadway Onstage Live Theatre, 21517 Kelly Rd., Eastpointe. Through Oct. 9. $16. 586-771-6333. http://www.broadwayonstage.com