BWW Review: UNNECESSARY FARCE at Playhouse On Park
Lately, there have been a lot of slamming doors on Park Road in West Hartford. In its latest production, UNNECESSARY FARCE by Paul Slade Smith, Playhouse on Park gives audiences a fun romp filled with mistaken identities, the Scottish mafia, bumbling crooks (and equally bumbling police officers) and as mentioned, slamming doors - eight of them to be exact.
As one might expect from a play with farce in its title, UNNECESSARY FARCE is just that. A textbook farce with over the top characters, quick witted dialogue, some corny puns and adult situations (presented in a comical fashion.) Paul Slade Smith, a West Hartford native, has written a script that revolves around two police officers Eric Sheridan (Will Hardyman) and Billie Dwyer (Susan Slotoroff) who are staked out in a cheap motel aiming to catch their mayor, Mayor Meekly (Everett O'Neill) on tape admitting to embezzling millions from the city. Aiding in this sting operation is city accountant Karen Brown (Julie Robles) who may, or may not have fallen for Officer Sheridan during their long night together awaiting the mayor's arrival. Rounding out the cast of characters are Agent Frank (Mike Boland) the mayor's private security, Mary Meekly (Ruth Neaveill), the mayor's wife and Todd (John-Patrick Driscoll), a Scotsman with a nefarious purpose.
As a whole, the cast of UNNECESSARY FARCE gels fairly well on stage, with a few performances, in particular, standing out. As Agent Frank, Mr. Boland gives the audience a mix of strength and a healthy dose of fear. As Officers Sheridan and Dwyer, Mr. Hardyman and Ms. Slotoroff bring to the stage an appropriate level of physical comedy needed for a farce such as this. Many of the laughs come from their unfortunate situations and from a few well timed pratfalls. As the repressed accountant caught in the middle of this operation, Ms. Robles does a fine job. Finally, as Todd the "Highland Hitman", Mr. Driscoll stood out, not just because of his bright red kilt or his great brogue, but also through his hilarious portrayal of a brash Scottish hitman obsessed with his killing routine.
While there are, indeed, many moments during UNNECESSARY FARCE, where laughs abound, Paul Slade Smith's script is not as consistently funny as one might expect from a farce such as this. The characters and situations are over the top, but there were a number of points in the evening where the action (and the laughter) seemed to die off for extended periods. This was partly due to the script itself, as well as to the timing of delivery (which has to be spot on to achieve the desired effect.) That said, there are some truly laugh out loud moments that delivered on expectations.
Russell Treyz' direction is strong, especially considering the quick entrances and exits and many parts of the dialogue that require precision. Christopher Hoyt's adjoining motel room set achieves the desired effect, especially for those seated in the center section of the theater and who can look at both rooms side-by-side. Kate Bunce's costumes work well, in particular, Todd's authentic Scottish dress. And Aaron Hochheiser's lighting and Joel Abbott's sound design achieve the desired effect.
All in all, UNNECESSARY FARCE is a fun romp, one that, though slow in spots, has a few hilarious payoffs and more than a few memorable characters and situations. Judging by the laughter in the theater, audiences are bound to enjoy this much-needed diversion being offered up on The Playhouse on Park stage.
UNNECESSARY FARCE runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through November 20th. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119
Photo credits - Meredith Atkinson: