The North Coast Rep’s current show is a farce!
But in the good, whacko, slamming-doors sense. Paul Slade Smith’s two-act script has absolutely no redeeming social value, and he goes for silliness where most comic playwrights would fear to tread. But Unnecessary Farce is always funny, and often quite so.
Farces are famous for their seven doors. Marty Burnett’s set goes them one better with eight. Back-to-back doors join two motel rooms that mirror each other: same bedspreads, color scheme, same “healthy” ficus plants, same painting of sailboats on the wall, with the sails reversed. The only difference: the room on house left has a downstage TV monitor.
That’s where timid police detective Eric Sheridan (nicely harried Christopher M. Williams), and Billie Dwyer (gung-ho-hilarious Jacque Wilke), on her first day as a cop, stakeout the room next door. A camera will tape a potentially incriminating encounter between the mayor (an overly goofy Ted Barton) and his new accountant, Karen Brown (Jessica John as adept at physical comedy as drama). They’ll try to tape, that is, since both give new meaning to the word ineptitude.
Somehow, and it doesn’t take long, things go awry, then fall apart, then steeplechase from room to room, closet to closet, as characters, often tied up or handcuffed, bounce off beds, bang into doors, point guns at each other — one just a water pistol — and shed clothing as if it’s 120 outside, in the shade, and the motel’s air conditioning just went on the blink.
Part of the genius of farce done well is it all makes a kind of eerie, logical sense. Of course Karen would strip down: that’s her signal to the cops that she’s in trouble, in this case from suddenly randy Agent Frank (John Nutten, earning laughs as a terrified assistant hitman). And it makes a titch of sense that the folks eating donuts in the room next door would gaze at the monitor as if engrossed in a soap opera.
If you can accept that, then it’s easier to believe that the Scottish Clan — that’s “with a C” – has sent the world’s scariest hitman, Todd, to the motel. But he can’t perform without first dressing in a kilt, red tartan plaid, a tall black bearskin hat, and playing his bagpipes.
It’s nuts. But except for a tendency to shout lines, on occasion, which makes for heaviness, the North Coast Rep cast, directed by Matthew Weiner, knocks about with balletic timing: be it Billie Dwyer tossing Mary Meekly (Dagmar Krause Fields) with a “Tallahasse Flip”; or Billie bound and gagged and waddling around trying to open a door; or Karen and Eric coming out of a 10 year thaw and really expressing their “sexual hunger” with bugged eyes and gestures that mirror each other much like the two rooms.
Or Todd (the brilliant David McBean), so angry he gnarls his Scottish brogue and needs a translator who, it turns out, is the person he’s dying to murder.