BWW Review: For an Evening of Scheming, Slapstick and 1950s Slang, Look No Further Than FALSE CLAIMS
What's a little insurance fraud among family? At the hands of writer Eli Pasic, it leads to 90 minutes of laughter and plenty of drama. Produced by Isaiah Kolundzic and Emily Dix, FALSE CLAIMS is a two-hour whirlwind of slapstick action, shocking twists, and witty comebacks that shows just how messy family relationships can get once money comes into the picture.
Directed by Blair Haynes, the two-act farce is set in the apartment of lawyer George Miller (Kevin Hare) shortly after the death of his late wife Margaret. Within a short time, his sister-in-law Linda (Heather Dick) arrives with her sons, mild-mannered Jerry (Kevin Forster) and the enterprising Dennis (Kolundzic). What ensues is a night of complete chaos as the household is turned upside-down at the mercy of Dennis's plan to collect his late aunt's life insurance.
A true farce at its core, FALSE CLAIMS excels because of its cast's ability to nail the wacky, improbable scenarios the characters are pushed into at Dennis's hands. Kolundzic is wildly entertaining as the ringleader of the whole mess, balancing sharp dialogue with smarmy charm in every interaction he facilitates onstage.
It's in his unwilling accomplice Jerry that a moral compass is assigned (somewhat) to the story - he's led time and time again into trouble by his brother, and Forster is a delight to watch at every turn. Against Dennis's blatant disregard for common decency, Forster's character slowly descends into madness resulting in a hilarious scene between the brothers, during which Forster's panic-stricken face turns the same shade as the sets' salmon-coloured sofa in seconds. This chemistry between Kolundzic and Forster is easily one of the highlights of the production.
Of course, a farce can't occur with just two characters, and FALSE CLAIMS possesses a talented ensemble to carry the zany story through to its end. Portraying the good-natured insurance company representative Frank (Zachary Groombridge) and his emotional journey at the mercy of Dennis's scheme, Groombridge is incredibly fun the more he's in the story, even if he does have to deal with the brunt of the chaos. Dick is an over-the-top Linda, which perfectly suits the woman's obliviousness when it comes to social cues.
As the neighbour from across the hall, Imogene (Melissa Taylor), Taylor is a fiery presence who nails a silent cleaning scene, while Hare offers a long-suffering George with a booming voice and plenty of confusion once Dennis's web begins to unravel. Agatha (Judith Johns Fiore) and Elizabeth (Kathleen Welch) shine in the few scenes they have, and special kudos to Welch for her show-stopping cough and dedicated physical acting late in the second act.
Due to the story's setting, a full apartment needed to be created to sell the illusion that it truly was a home for George and his departed wife - something done successfully through stage design (Dix) and lighting design (Jeremy Pearson, also credited as stage manager). Choices made to light the set from behind stage during phone calls was a nice change from the standard full lighting of the apartment.
The tight script, well-coordinated ensemble, and sharp plot twists make FALSE CLAIMS a great example of comedic farce, and managed to draw plenty of laughs from the opening night crowd. Even if you can't get behind the wildly improbable scenario they find themselves in, FALSE CLAIMS will likely have you realizing that as wild as your own family might be - at least they aren't as bad as the Miller clan.
FALSE CLAIMS runs through August 11 at the Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley St., Toronto, ON.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://falseclaims.simpletix.com/
Main image credit: Sue Copping