STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
What do two cops, three crooks, eight doors, and a kilt-wearing killer have in common? They’re the moving parts in Act II Playhouse’s latest production, “Unnecessary Farce.” The “zany comedy” takes the stage Feb. 24 through March 20.
Since its premiere in 2006, there have been more than 150 productions across the country. Act II Artistic Director Tony Braithwaite is excited to bring it to Ambler.
“Paul Slade Smith (the writer) has had success all over with this show, and with good reason: it’s funny,” Braithwaite said. “Audiences who like a good old-fashioned, door-slamming comedy will laugh their heads off.”
The classic farce, which features slapstick and other physical comedy, pairs with a contemporary American plot, according to the press release. In a hotel room, an embezzling mayor is supposed to meet with his new accountant. In the room next door, two undercover cops are supposed to catch the meeting on videotape. But there’s some confusion as to who’s in which room, who’s watching the video, who’s taken the money, who’s hired a hit man, and why the accountant keeps taking off her clothes. (No word on if there’s a scorecard to keep track of all that.)
The cast features seven of Philly’s well-known actors: Anthony Lawton, who recently finished a run in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s “Outside Mullingar”; Karen Peakes; Susan McKey; Tom Teti, most recently on Act II’s stage in “Mark Twain: Unplugged”; Gerri Weagraff; Jake Blouch; and Akeem Davis.
Lawton, of Roxborough, plays Eric Sheridan, an underachieving cop in the police force of an unnamed small town.
“Sheridan lacks self-confidence and is sort of an adult Charlie Brown, complete with bad luck,” he said. “His professional and romantic life leave much to be desired.”
He’s also the closest thing to a straight man in this play full of funny people, Lawton said. The show careens out of control, hopefully in a hilarious way.
“The circumstances force characters into acting before they can think, so they wind up doing foolish things. There’s a good deal of violence – usually in the form of people falling down, close scrapes, sex, and sprinting about on urgent errands,” Lawton said.
In addition to his acting chops, Lawton has to employ stamina and to be fully committed.
“A play like this demands a great deal of precision — physical, verbal, and mental,” he said. Lawton has performed in dramas and comedies, but this is only his third true farce. Luckily, no matter what type of show he’s doing, he doesn’t get nervous.
“I get more excited,” he said. “If rehearsal has gone at all well, I feel the excitement of an athlete at game time, who feels assured of a win. There’s always a chance it won’t go well, and that fear has never entirely left me, but it’s no longer the dread that it used to be.”
He’s hopeful and will try his best to make audiences laugh until it hurts during “Unnecessary Farce.” He simply can’t help himself — he loves performing and reaching the people sitting in the darkness beyond the footlights.
“My acting impulse is at least half ego, the class clown in me that is a hog for attention,” he said. “The rest of the impulse is a desire to nourish my audience with whatever pleasure and insight my work can provide.” The pleasure this time will hopefully be tears from laughter rolling down cheeks and big smiles.
IF YOU GO
What: “Unnecessary Farce”
When: Previews Feb. 24-26; Opening night Feb. 27; runs through March 22.
Where: Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler, PA 19002.
Tickets: $24-$35 with discounts available for seniors (65 and older) and students.
Info.: Call 215-654-0200 or visit www.act2.org