BWW Review: UNNECESSARY FARCE at Ankeny Community Theatre
What do you get when two undercover cops, a clueless mayor, his wife, a security guard, an accountant and the Scottish mob collide in two conjoining motel rooms set somewhere in the middle of America? The answer has to be a poorly thought out joke or the play Unnecessary Farce by Paul Slade Smith, which is the final show of Ankeny Community Theatre's 35th season. Luckily, the cast of Unnecessary Farce does great wonders with this complicated joke and provides a wild and farcical time while squeezing out every ounce of humor in this lackluster and predictable script.
Let me try to explain the set up a little better than the previous complicated question. Officers Eric Sheridan (Adam Haselhuhn) and Billie Dwyer (Ali Kirwen) are on a stakeout in a rundown motel to try and capture the town's mayor (Troy DeStigter) confessing to his new accountant (Kaci Conetzkey) that he has embezzled sixteen million dollars. Things get more complicated when mayor's security agent Frank (Troy Gould), a hired hit man (Ryan Ingram) and the mayor's wife (Susan Casber) all show up to crowd the two rooms while opening and slamming the eight doors on set. In true farce, things rarely make complete sense, but that means it makes for a good time for the audience.
Without giving too much more away, as farces usually work best when the audience knows quite little about the twists and turns ahead, the entire cast deserves recognition for their commitment to the physical and comedic demands this show requires. Whether its slamming one of doors on stage in another's face, running and jumping on the motel beds, or straddling each other in surprising positions on the same beds, director Barbara Merrill Wagner has successfully trained her cast how to get very physically comfortable with each other throughout this show.
There are standouts from the ensemble that are especially good at keeping the audience laughing. Adam Haselhuhn as the calmer and level headed (as much as one can be in a show like this) Officer Sheridan takes his leading role with ease without playing up the buffoonery too much. On the other hand, Ali Kirwen as the energetic Officer Dwyer makes a lovely and hilarious fool of herself on stage while grabbing for any laughs she can. The officer duo plays together nicely even when simply miming while other events occur on stage. Much praise must also be given to Troy DeStigter as the stupidly naïve mayor and Troy Gould as the terrified Agent Frank who can make the audience laugh simply by saying, "Whaaaa?"
Although the cast is able to grasp the physical and comedic demands of the show, they prove at times that they are better than the script they have been given. Unfortunately, the script is sometimes too predictable, which detracts from the enjoyable wildness of a farce. Additionally, whenever the show focuses on real problems like being too shy to tell someone you like them, the show clunks along. The script is at its best when it takes advantage of the characters in both of the rooms unknowingly finishing each other's sentences or answering each other's questions. In these moments, the show picks up and allows the cast to do their work.
Even if predictable and a little cheesy, Unnecessary Farce is worth the trip just to see the cast point guns at each other in a holdup while climbing, tripping, and helping each other over the motel bed. So if you are in the mood for an easy laugh, go support local theatre (all ran by volunteers I must add) and take your mind off the heavy things in life. If you can't make it out to this show, go see Ankeny Community Theatre's 36th season big-name (and better script) opener The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee because if it has any of the humor of this show, it won't disappoint.
Ankeny Community Theatre
August 4-20, 2017