'Unnecessary Farce' keeps pace with humor
UW-Waukesha reopens theater aiming at funny bone
Comedy is not as easy as it looks.
After almost a year without a play in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre at UW-Waukesha because of repairs, director Steve Decker decided to reopen with something light. The selection was the face-paced farce, by "Noises Off" playwright Paul Slade Smith, called "Unnecessary Farce."
For the most part the UW-Waukesha Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Ensemble handled the tricky, eight-door set, numerous sight gags and frenetic banter easily. There were other times when the timing missed and the humor didn't materialize.
Like last spring's "Three Musketeers" with its many fight scenes and physicality, Decker chose a most challenging work, as well as a genre that hadn't been tackled in recent years at UW-Waukesha.
The stage was well created for the romp, revealing two nicely furnished identical motel rooms. Keys to the show are the eight bright white doors that all the characters find themselves accessing throughout the play.
The play opens with two inept cops stationed next door to the room of an accountant who planned a meeting with the mayor. There is something fishy about the city's finances and the police have set up a camera to record the meeting, which can be viewed by the police in the adjoining room.
Zach Ursem plays Eric Sheridan, a cop, while Colleen Glatzell plays his sidekick, Billie Dwyer. Both are bumbling and to complicate matters, Sheridan has the hots for theaccountant, Karen Brown, played by Grace Inouye. When Sheridan enters Brown's room to see if everything is set up for the meeting, the two end up in bed, only Sheridan doesn't realize the camera is running and Billie is watching on the monitor next door.
It is a clever device used throughout the show, with characters watching the proceedings next door and commenting on the sometimes salacious actions. But the action really gets interesting when Agent Frank (Jordan Burac) arrives with the mayor (Zach Ihn), and spills the beans about a Scottish mafia, which has been terrorizing the city and has its hand in the city till.
And sure enough, before long Todd (David Boxhorn), known as the clan's Highland Hitman, entered the room. Moments later he is dressed in a kilt and playing the bagpipe. "He plays until you're ready to kill yourself," says Agent Frank.
The comedy is nonstop as characters end up in and out of closets, bathrooms, hallways and adjoining rooms as they eavesdrop, change clothes, get tied up and hide bodies.
Glatzell as Billie Dwyer, the nervous rookie cop, overplayed the role effectively with exaggerated expressiveness and body language.
Billie's attempts to open the doors after being bound and gagged by Todd is a hoot, one of many.
Ursem, too, played it over-the-top and was especially funny as he donned the Scot's outfit and tried to imitate his accent.
Boxhorn's Scottish character really elevated the show and the comedy with his large (in more ways than one) character, whose accent becomes indiscernible when he gets angry. Boxhorn is perfectly cast and executed all of the slapstick nicely - including getting rapped in the face a couple times by an opening door.
Burac is solid as Agent Frank, nailing the character's tough exterior that crumbles when he's attacked.
Inouye as Brown stayed understated in her role as the accountant and deadpanned lots of good lines effectively. Her character comments on her penchant to end up only partially clothed in bed with several characters: "I work for an accounting firm. They don't even have casual Friday." She handled the quick pace well, as does Aariela Steele as the mayor's wife who turns out to be much more than an unassuming mate.
The whole cast had its hands full with all the physical humor in the show and mostly kept up. There were a few scenes that perhaps played out a little too long, but not to the detriment of the show.
The audience laughed heartily throughout, and the show's satisfying ending had everyone, no doubt, leaving happy.
The troupe added another feather to the cap of UW-Waukesha's theater program, which continues to produce top-notch entertainment at a reasonable cost.
Next up for the troupe is the musical "Oliver," July 26 through Aug. 4.
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