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BWW Review: UNNECESSARY FARCE is a Riot at The Keegan Theatre

BWW Review: UNNECESSARY FARCE is a Riot at The Keegan Theatre

The Keegan Theatre's UNNECESSARY FARCE is the comedy we all need in these troubling times. Written by Paul Slade Smith and adroitly directed by Ray Ficca, this D.C. premiere will make you really, truly, laugh.

A farce is synonymous with slapstick, vaudeville, and buffoonery. It endeavors to entertain with exaggerated, preposterous situations. Keegan Theatre's UNNECESSARY FARCE does just that, and it does it well. Though it takes a few minutes to get accustomed to the physical comedy, once you're settled into the rhythm you're guaranteed to laugh until your sides hurt. UNNECESSARY FARCE is advertised with the language, "Two cops. Three crooks, Eight doors." Matthew Keenan's set design features a split stage with two nearly identical motel rooms. The plot is straightforward: A suspicious accountant suspects the mayor of embezzling funds, and so sets a meeting in a cheap motel room. In the room next door, two cops endeavor to get proof of illegal activity on video tape. The eight doors nearly fly off their hinges as the woefully underprepared cops try to figure out who's being videotaped, who's in the next room, who has hired a hitman, and why the accountant won't stop taking off her clothes.

Noah Schaefer as cop Eric opens the show with skillful physical comedy. Eric and Billie (Jenna Lawrence), two inexperienced cops, are tasked with manning the video-camera and exposing the mayor's illicit activities. Schaefer and Lawrence's rapport is one of FARCE's great successes. Jenna Lawrence's naive, gun shy Billie finds her footing in the second act: her rapid-fire Scottish to English translation abilities will make your jaw drop. Eric and accountant Karen, played by Emily Levey, are a similar joy to watch together. Their burgeoning romance helps forward the plot as Eric finds a backbone he didn't realize he had. The usually straight-laced Karen finds herself in compromising situations as her clothes keep coming off while the video camera is running, and Levey is convincingly distressed at every turn.

When Agent Frank storms onto the scene, we find out that the mafia is involved. The Scottish clan (with a C, as we are continually reminded) controls the mayor, and Agent Tom is on a mission to squelch the investigation. Christopher Herring attacks the role with gusto-at times giving off a convincing air of bravado and almost instantly collapsing into a paralyzing fear. Agent Frank introduces the terrifying hitman Todd (played by Jon Townson)-an imposing figure who kills his victims only after subjecting them to a seemingly never-ending song on his Highland bagpipes.

Mario Baldessari as the mild-mannered Mayor Meekly is the definition of a scene stealer. He frequently walks in on various combinations of characters in all manner of compromising situations. Baldessari's obvious glee is infectious, and his punchy one-liners will leave you wishing he had more stage time. Karen Novack as Mrs. Meekly rounds out the cast, and deftly toes the line between charming and imposing.

Though some moments meant to be synchronous could be sharper, and the script has some minor flaws, these performers make the best of it. The audience on Tuesday night was eager to laugh, and thanked the actors for the evening with a standing ovation. As I walked home on an unseasonably warm night in DC I realized how much I needed to laugh at something straightforward and uncomplicated. Much theatre in DC this year has taken aim at the nation's political climate and the systemic inequalities engendered by decades of racism and sexism. While I relish the opportunity to take a good hard look at my complicity and engage with powerful works of protest, there is also a time and place for escapist theatre. If you need a good laugh, I can't recommend Keegan Theatre's UNNECESSARY FARCE highly enough.

UNNECESSARY FARCE is playing at Keegan Theatre from January 19-February 10th. For tickets, visit: http://keegantheatre.com/portfolio-item/unnecessary-farce/.

Run Time: 2 hours, with one 15-minute intermission

Pictured from left to right: Christopher Herring, Jenna Lawrence and Jon Townson. Photo by Cameron Whitman.


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