Theater review: ‘Unnecessary Farce’ at HART

OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE: Two cops, three criminals, eight doors. HART presents a madcap romp in Unnecessary Farce.
OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE: Two cops, three criminals, eight doors. HART presents a madcap romp in Unnecessary Farce. Photo by John Highsmith

If you need a good laugh, or two, or 200, Paul Slade Smith’s comedy Unnecessary Farce, onstage at Haywood Arts Regional Theatre through Saturday, Sept. 9, is a remedy for those end-of-summer blues.

The key to a good farce is a director who can guide the actors through an often-frenetic show, in this case with many doors being slammed as others are being opened. There’s a precision required that could make or break a show like this. Julie Kinter, as director, makes perfect use of her seven actors who barrel between two motel rooms through the communicating doors, closets, bathrooms and outer portals. In a show like this, if one entrance is too slow or too fast, the comical near-misses misalign, and the whole thing falls apart. No such fears here — everyone is on their game in this show.

We begin with two police officers in one room. They’re providing surveillance over a meeting with the potentially corrupt mayor and a new accountant, who has uncovered millions in misplaced funds. Chase Wells’ Officer Sheridan has had an overnight romantic encounter with the accountant, Ms. Brown (played by Sarah Lipham), that creates sexual tension. Anna Denson plays Officer Dwyer, Sheridan’s partner.

Wells is great as the somewhat bumbling cop, teamed with Denson’s neurotic Dwyer. Denson really shines with some impressive physical comedy moments, as well as a breathless monologue in the second act that garners well-earned applause. Lipham is hysterical in the role of the sexually ravenous accountant who spends a lot of the show getting undressed, then getting caught in compromising positions.

David Spivy’s Mayor Meekly is a lot of fun to watch. He tends to pop up just in time to catch people in dicey situations before excusing himself in a befuddled manner. Dan Dutterer is the Mayor’s overzealous security man, who gets entangled in all sides of the situation as it spins out of control.

Late in the proceedings, Mayor Meekly’s wife (played by Holly Cope) arrives to add one more person to the chaos, which has ramped up considerably thanks to Scottish assassin Todd. Todd kills his victims only after donning full Scottish regalia and playing his favorite song on the bagpipes. David Krarup is a scene-stealer as Todd, whose brogue gets so comically thick when he’s angry that it becomes a stream of mumbo-jumbo. Yet, somehow Dwyer can understand and translate.

There’s much ado about the Scottish Mafia, which is really behind the missing money from town hall, and Todd’s relationship to it all. In the midst of it, there’s plenty of romping on the motel beds, hiding in the closets and mistaken identities. Will Sheridan and Dwyer save the day and crack the case, or will they be banished from the police force for bungling things? And will Sheridan and Brown ever get to consummate their relationship?

All in all, there’s not much to this show from a plot standpoint — but there’s not supposed to be. This production is designed to make audiences howl with laughter, and it more than delivers, including a curtain call with all seven actors racing in and out of doors, chasing each other wildly until the all emerge for a well-earned bow.

WHAT: Unnecessary Farce
WHERE: HART, 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville, harttheatre.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, Sept. 9. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. $12-$25

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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