The North Coast Rep’s silly, lunkhead, hilarious Unnecessary Farce must close this Sunday.
One of the oddest things about farce: it must as precise as it is frantic. Actors scream “eek,” slam doors, and sprint around the set. Costumes change, or fall off, with alacrity. Troubles escalate. Mania reigns. But if the ensemble doesn’t perform with stopwatch precision the piece stumbles into mere burlesque, or a travesty of itself. Or, worse yet, it isn’t funny.
Most farces, these days, are of the “bedroom” variety. They weave one absurdity after another around an extra-marital affair.
Playwright Paul Slade Smith goes them one better: he has connected bedrooms in a low-budget motel. The rooms often mirror each other, and they often reflect activities in common. Slade also has eight doors, instead of the traditional seven. The eighth connects the two rooms and makes for frequent disconnections.
Like the famous “butterfly effect” of Chaos Theory, a simple premise thickens with complexities. Two inept police persons – a detective and a first-day newbie – plan to sting the Mayor. They hide a camera in the room next door to catch his allegedly devious doings.
By play’s end, that video would be pure absurdist theater: brand new lovers in hot-to-trot interruptus; a dressed-for-success woman given to disrobing (a sign to the police that she’s in trouble); a bound and gagged police officer pogo-sticking around; and an insane Scottish assassin in kilts and black bearskin hat who blithers when angry.
(Part of the fun: the people in the other room watch the video monitor with rapt attention, as if following their favorite soap opera).
The North Coast cast, directed by Matthew Weiner, does a bang-up job. Jessica John and Jacque Wilke, Craig Noel Award winners, shine as the randy accountant and the brand new cop. And David McBean is exceptional as Todd the Scottish hitman, whose percolating brain becomes a farce within the farce.