Solana Beach, CA—Just to kinda quote Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”, “Don’t you love farce? … And where are clowns? Quick send in the clowns. Don’t bother. They’re here”.
Well, you get the idea. “Unnecessary Farce” by Paul Slade Smith and directed by Matthew Wiener can boast that every character in this play is a clown of sorts and they will all show themselves to be just that at some point: Christopher M. Williams is Cop Eric Sheridan, Jacque Wilke is Billie Dwyer, his partner, Jessica John is Karen Brown the sexy accountant, Ted Barton is ditsy Mayor Meekly, John Nutten is Agent Frank, head of Security at City Hall, David McBean is Todd, a professional hit man and Dagmar Krause Fields is Mary Meekly the Mayor’s wife. Some exhibit more slapstick ingenuity than others but clowns one and all, nonetheless.
There are a few other necessary things you might like to consider in this unnecessary farce at NCR. Most sets in farce have about five doors for quick escapes, hiding behind and/or slamming, banging and trying to open and/or close.
This one has eight doors and they are used on a minute-by-minute basis in two mirror image looking hotel rooms (credit Marty Burnett), closets, bathrooms and identical furniture and furnishings and wall hangings. One room has a TV monitor to record what goes on in the connecting room.
In hot pursuit, one party can easily undress another in a flash and that’s exactly what happens especially with Williams and John (credit Alina Bokovikova for her versatile costumes). Nutten drops his own pants and never puts them back on, ridiculous as it looks, and most of the characters are half dressed shortly after we meet them and remain either pant-less or topless.
Just as an FYI the American Flag emblem on the arm of Police Cadet Billie Dwyer’s uniform should rest on the right arm, unless it was intentionally sewn on the left.
Sound designer Melanie Chin’s selections of theme songs may or may not bring back memories of let’s say “Get Smart” or “Peter Gunn” and at some point the ‘bag pipes come into play, God Help Us! And just for you know what and giggles, Matt Novotny’s lighting design did take us back and fourth from one room to the next and Benjamin Cole’s props finish the product.
Lest you think there is no story line here, let’s just say it’s one great big caper that the playwright would like you to think, that underneath all the running amuck, craziness and cuckoo-ness, a story will be flushed out. That’s wishful thinking. What I will concede to is that there is enough of a convoluted whopper of a tale to go around for everyone to get a piece of the action.
The two bungling undercover cops, Eric and Billie have been given a choice assignment (ahem) to catch what the law thinks is a money scamming operation in the mayors office. They get the new accountant Karen Brown to schedule a meeting with the Mayor to reexamine his books in the hopes that he will get caught red handed in trying to explain the missing money. This meeting is to take place in the ‘motel room’. Da ta da da!
From the outset things run amuck and trying to record the goings on in the adjacent room becomes a task that turns into a monumental blunder since both cops’ concentration is about as long as that of a gnat. There’s a whole doughnut-eating scene that’s a riot, and it’s a repeated gag that runs throughout the play.
We soon learn that Eric has the hot’s for Karen, and she is equally inclined. Her job to nail the crooked Mayor goes to hell in a hand basket because she and Eric are so busy finding that true love and great sex in a two by two bathroom takes more time than imagined.
In the meantime another bungling security guard Agent Frank happens in on the mess and sooner rather than later the Mayor, showing up for his appointment at the motel, walks into a ménage á trios and things go from bad to worse.
The plot thickens when we learn that the Scottish clan (small ‘c’) is involved in the money scam and Big Mac is at the top and first lieutenant Todd is the actual hit man.
I’ll stop here and digress: If there were a role made in heaven for David McBean, this is it. He shines as the killer par blunderer BIG TODD and when he goes off in an unrecognizable garbled rant in his Scottish brogue, heads roll. But that’s not enough. He dons a full on Highlander Bagpipe outfit (Kilt, Tartan Kilt Jacket, White shirt or blouse, white stockings, the works and Feather Bonnet, no kidding!) and actually manages to squeeze out a note or two.
Jessica John and Christopher M. Williams are spot on with their comedic timing and pace and that’s what matters in farce. Williams shows his agility right from the opening bell (or phone call from his boss) as he tries to talk and dress at the same time. Some of us find it hard to walk and talk at the same time.
Nutten has the thankless role of security guard afraid of his own shadow and Ted Barton is a hoot as the clueless (don’t be fooled) Mayor. Dagmar Krause Fields finally makes an appearance and just about rocks everyone’s socks with her admission in this whole caper.
Born comic Jacque Wilke plays the deer in the wilderness Officer Dwyer to the hilt. From the beginning when she shows off her water pistol to her practicing her Tallahassee Flip (don’t ask) on Sheridan, to her doughnut collection, she shines.
The play is very physical and Wilke shows off her expertise as she hops around the motel room from bed to door-to-door, bound and gagged trying to get someone to rescue her after BIG TODD ties her up readying her for the kill.
She and John, who hobbles around on what looks like a (as in one) 10 inch stiletto show that they are every bit up to matching their male counterparts. The entire cast works very hard and seem to enjoy the art of farce. So be it.
As for the rest of the so called plot, try not to wrack your brain on this one ‘cause “All’s well that ends…. well you knew that.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Extended through May 16th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Farce
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr. Suite D, Solana Beach, CA92075
Ticket Prices: Start at $44.00