REVIEW WRITTEN BY NOAH BURD
For 21st Century Media
DCP Theatre’s production of Paul Slade Smith’s comedy “Unnecessary Farce” is as enjoyable as it is goofy. Smith’s play belongs to that rare breed of farce that makes good on its promise of zany banter and tight blocking, which DCP delivers in full. The show is halfway between your typical sex comedy and crime plot, capturing the funniest elements of both genres. Fast-paced without ever feeling cluttered, it’s a show that deserves to put Smith in the company of famed farcical playwrights Michael Frayn and Georges Feydeau.
The set-up has all the madcap makings of a good farce. Karen Brown (Christine Martuscello) is the new accountant for the mayor of town. She conspires to work with police to help capture Mayor Meekly (Marc Schule) embezzling in a hotel room sting. While she waits for the mayor, officers Eric Sheridan (John Weber) and Billie Dwyer (Marianne Dell’Aquila) prepare in the adjoining room to capture it all on tape. Of course, nothing ends up going according to plan. The mayor arrives too soon, the camera catches Brown and Officer Sheridan in romantic embrace, and a couple of thugs show up to rough the rest of them up, all as the mayor’s conspiracy thickens. What was supposed to be an undercover operation soon becomes a mess of opening and closing doors, dressing and undressing, and bagpipe bags and backup bagpipe bags.
The production successfully handles the quick costume changes and clever dialog; the physical comedy is well-timed and the jokes consistently land. The show shares the best characteristics of television cartoons—the exaggerated physicality, the quick self-referential humor, and the double entendre. With these tools, the cast successfully creates a mishmash of vivid (if often dysfunctional) personas who clash with and clasp each other between the two rooms. The two police officers are neither particularly brave nor cunning. Officer Sheridan is nebbish and distractible, while dweeby Officer Dwyer play the klutz.
Together, the cast exhibits a good and personable chemistry between them, but of course there are also the standout character roles featuring actors who jump right into the absurdity given to them. Schule as the dopey, easily flustered mayor is absolutely delightful as he stumbles accidentally upon compromising sexual situations. Jan Thompson, playing his wife Mary, shows a tremendous amount of versatility despite being on stage for a relatively short amount of time. And Ray Greenley as the dreaded Scottish assassin Todd affects a brogue so thick and impassioned that — and this is a good thing — even the characters in the show don’t understand what he’s saying!
Like any comedy worth its salt, the show is full of surprises, both punchline by punchline and at the plot level. I won’t ruin them here except to say that Unnecessary Farce delivers on what it promises. Those looking to indulge their silly side for a couple of hours will find this to be a great treat.
IF YOU GO
Unnecessary Farce runs through Sept. 20 at DCP Theatre, 795 Ridge Road, Salford. Tickets are available for $15 at the door or online at www.dcptheatre.com; senior citizens and students are $13, and groups of 10 or more can contact the box office at (215) 234-0966. Additional information is available at www.dcptheatre.com. The show does contain adult language and situations.