BoarsHead Theatre, 425 S. Grand Ave., Lansing. Wed.-Sun., through Nov. 19. Tickets: $20-$35. For information: 517-484-7805 or http://www.boarshead.org.
There’s something farcical about coming up with the idea to write a farce while stooped inside a wardrobe during a performance of “Hello Dolly” – which is based on a farce, Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker.” But that’s exactly how actor-turned-playwright Paul Slade Smith – a very tall actor, I might add – came to write his second-ever script, “Unnecessary Farce,” that had its world premiere this past weekend at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater. And what a thoroughly delightful production it is!
A farce, experts tell us, is “a play characterized by broad humor and a complicated and improbable plot” – a definition that perfectly describes this zany comedy that has more tasty twists to it than a full bag of Twizzlers.
Set in a small Midwestern town, Officers Eric Sheridan (played by Doug MacKechnie) and Billie Dwyer (Erin Noel Grennan) have been sent to conduct an undercover sting operation at a local hotel. Mayor Meekly (Len Kluge), it seems, has embezzled $16 million, and by secretly videotaping the mayor’s off-site meeting with Karen Brown (Kate Berry), the town’s new accountant, they hope to get the goods on him.
So why, then, does everything fall apart only minutes into the operation?
Because this is a farce, of course – and a very good one, too! The laugh-out-loud comedy has everything one can hope for in a modern-day farce: two likeable cops operating way out of their league, a supposedly crooked mayor with impeccable timing, his innocent-acting wife, a shy accountant with a penchant for dropping her drawers, a nervous double agent who’d like to get IN those drawers, a Scottish hit man whose brogue gets thicker the angrier he gets, two adjoining hotel rooms, simmering sexual tension and eight doors a slammin’.
But since it’s far more fun to watch a farce than it is to read about one, that’s all I’ll reveal – except for this: Playwright Smith has one very sharp funny bone – and a gift for storytelling, as well!
So, too, does director Kristine Thatcher, who takes Smith’s madcap story and fills it with infectious energy. With the dialogue and action often taking place simultaneously in two rooms, timing is of the utmost importance – and Thatcher pulls it off quite well.
But the real excitement is happening on stage, thanks to Thatcher’s excellent ensemble of actors, each of whom seems to be having more fun than the law should allow.
Grennan is a master at delivering even the shortest of lines with just the right shading.
David Girolmo physically dominates the stage as Todd, the Scotsman with anger issues. A scene he shares with Grennan – who’s translating his longwinded set of instructions – is a showstopper.
And what’s not to love about Carmen Decker as the not-so-meek Mary Meekly?
However, I suspect scenic designer Shelly Barish has spent way too much time in cheap hotels, since everything on her set is absolutely perfect, from the wallpaper to the bedspreads to those little doorknob protectors on the wall.