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Law en-farce-ment - 'Unnecessary Farce'

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Law en-farce-ment - 'Unnecessary Farce' (Photo courtesy of Winterport Open Stage)

Winterport Open Stage presents broad, bright comedy

WINTERPORT Something shady is going down in Winterport. Mistaken identities and a missing money mystery not to mention a whole lot of doors are just part of the problem.

Winterport Open Stage is presenting 'Unnecessary Farce' by Paul Slade Smith. This high-energy romp packed with budding romance, unfortunate timing, slapstick humor and just a touch of voyeurism is directed by Brianne Beck. The show is running on the WOS stage at the Wagner Middle School through Nov. 6.

Eric Sheridan (Nathan Roach) is a police officer looking to make his mark. He and his partner Billie Dwyer (Stephanie Erb) have been assigned to a massive case. An accountant named Karen Brown (Jenny Hart) was recently assigned to City Hall to organize and maintain the city's books. However, she discovered some improprieties to the tune of $16 million.

A meeting has been arranged between Karen and Mayor Meekly (Dave Barrett) in a local motel. Eric and Billie have set up a sting in the room next door they've got video cameras and microphones set up to so that they might capture evidence of the Mayor confessing his crimes.

However, issues arise. Sparks are flying between Eric and Karen very inappropriate sparks. Billie's enthusiasm for the job largely outweighs her aptitude for it. The Mayor is an amiable goofball who displays an uncanny knack for turning up at precisely the wrong time. And it all goes sideways when Agent Frank (Brogan Kelley), head of the mayor's security detail, shows up and starts asking a lot of questions.

What follows is a whirlwind of panicked decisions, missed signals, mistaken identities and slamming doors. Karen, Eric and Billie have stumbled into something far bigger than they ever could have expected; it's up to them to figure out what's really going on. They have to catch up with the culprits behind it allbefore the culprits catch up with them.

The key components to farce are pacing and timing. Without that sense of breakneck speed and constant movement, a show like this one is dead in the water. Fortunately for 'Unnecessary Farce,' they have a director with experience in the form. Beck has spent plenty of time dealing with farce both on and off the stage and it shows here. Basically, if you have all the pieces in more or less perpetual motion, it's going to work and 'Unnecessary Farce' works.

Of course, the big question the only question that really matters when discussing this kind of show is this: is it funny? Happily, the answer is yes. There are plenty of laughs to be had here as the story careens from bit to bit in a high-octane effort to land as many jokes and gags as possible.

Beck has assembled an ensemble that largely proves up to the challenge inherent to such a show. Roach plays Eric as a man who might be a bit simple, but is far from stupid; he's just the right amount of vulnerable; not enough and he's unsympathetic, too much and he's pitiable and Roach finds the balance. Hart is fearless throughout, maintaining a sharp wit even as she roams the stage in various stages of undress she's got marvelous comedic timing. Erb tromps and stomps and rolls around the space with a delightful physicality; she's engagingly ridiculous.

Barrett's sunshiny take on the Mayor is a lot of fun; he epitomizes a wide-eyed gee-whiz attitude that suits this kind of show to a tee. Kelley is a bundle of excitability, changing demeanor on a dime from confident to crazed and back again. Paul Nicklas and Colette Sabbagh also play important roles, but they're ones that should probably be left for you to discover for yourself. Suffice it to say, both bring vital and energetic commitment to their respective contributions to the narrative.

One of the big challenges in mounting a show like 'Unnecessary Farce' is adequately reckoning with the demands on the design side. In short doors. Lots and lots of doors. Functional, slammable, easily-accessible doors. Scenic designer Elliot Wilcox has managed to place eight workable doors in a relatively small space while still allowing for the freedom of movement that is the lifeblood of farce; Scout Hough's lighting design defines the space where the set cannot. The two together have created a plausible, functional representation of adjoining motel rooms, overcoming the limitations of the space in large part by embracing them.

'Unnecessary Farce' is broad and light, filled with a manic energy and driven by a talented, committed cast. It's farce at its clothes-swapping door-slamming finest; if you're looking for a way to chase away the gray, head to Winterport and let this crew brighten your day.

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:29

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