Review: 'Unnecessary Farce' pushes the right buttons - Peoria, IL -

Posted on Sunday, July 26, 2009 by Pat Gaik

Yay! It plays in Peoria!

Review: 'Unnecessary Farce' pushes the right buttons - Peoria, IL -

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Review: 'Unnecessary Farce' pushes the right buttons

Zany show follows conventions of a farce, but does it well

of the Journal Star

Posted Jul 26, 2009 @ 12:28 AM

GOODFIELD — Bagpipes, bumbling cops, a kilt-crazy Scotsman - what do you do for an encore?

If you're the alliteratively named playwright Paul Slade Smith, you might toss in standby gags such as trousers falling down and men in funny underwear.

That's what the actor/author does in the amusing and highly theatrical "Unnecessary Farce," which opened Friday at Conklin's Barn II Dinner Theatre.

The show begins with a pair of Keystone Kops in a sting operation trying to catch an embezzling mayor on video.

Everything, of course, backfires: Doors are slammed, identities are feigned as the plot grows ever zanier and a kilt-sporting, bagpipe-playing Scotsman wearing a fuzzy hat brogues and rogues his way across the stage.

Farces are almost by definition formulaic. Any writer who tries to produce one works within a narrow set of conventions. Yet for this very reason, farce has certain appeal.

Some basic elements of theater - stage business and gesture; verbal playfulness; a clever premise with great comic or dramatic appeal; story reversals that are surprising but plausible in retrospect - are at stake. How cleverly can the playwright manipulate them?

In this case, pretty cleverly, it turns out. Smith, who is touring with "Wicked," demonstrates an actor's pleasure in physical humor in "Unnecessary Farce." Only consider the opening moments of the play, when Officer Sheridan - bumbling cop No. 1, wonderfully played by John Johnson - plays Twister with uncooperative shirt and pants as he fields a telephone call from his angry boss.

It turns out Sheridan has just been playing twister of another sort with Karen, the fetching young accountant and intended jailbait for the mayor, an amiable but apparently clueless fellow played by Bob Lane.

Struggles with bothersome outer garments continue moments later as Karen - the funny, over-the-top Miranda Axsom - is busy unzipping this and peeling off that on the bed before the couple is embarrassingly interrupted.

But even the tangles of sheets and clothing are soon outpaced by tangles of a more verbal variety. The brilliant Pat Gaik, who cuts such a glorious figure as the fully costumed Scotsman, rapid-fires a stream of verbal nonsense that passes for dialect with admirable speed and ability. April Wyant - who plays Officer Billie, bumbling cop No. 2, the only character who can understand the Scotsman - just as admirably repeats it all in English, winning applause Friday night.

Smith's scene setting also is packed with comic possibilities: The play takes place in two adjoining motel rooms, one with a computer screen that monitors and records the goings-on next door.

The back-and-forth action between the rooms and the situation's built-in ironies are milked endlessly by director Mary Simon.

Combine all of this with additional, very weird characters - Agent Frank, who receives a loopy and odd performance from Dan Challacombe; and the soft-spoken Mary Meekly, well played by Simon, who wanders on stage like a ticking time bomb - and you have the makings of an amusing show.

"Unnecessary Farce" is a well-crafted farce that finds new energy in a familiar theatrical form.

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1 Comment

  1. Melanie |

    Brilliant and glorious -- I always knew it! Congratulations on a faboo performance, petal!


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