Brent Raymond as Agent Frank

Brent Raymond as Agent Frank

Theatre review: Powerhouse delivers farce to be reckoned with

Unnecessary Farce lacks an intelligent or feasible plot, but you will laugh at the ridiculous situations the characters find themselves in.

Curmudgeon Basil Fawlty often found himself in chaotic scenarios, where mistaken identity, double entendres, bedroom shenanigans, and exaggerated situations caused him many reasons to lose his head.

Immortalized on British TV by the incomparable John Cleese, Fawlty Towers is one of the best examples of farce when it is done right.

Farce can either alienate – they can be noisy, rude and stupid – or they can make you forget all your worries and have you dissolve in a puddle of giggles.

Another good example of the latter is Unnecessary Farce, currently on the stage at Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre.

Directed by the Okanagan’s unofficially crowned “king of Farce” Matt Brown (who could forget his 2011 direction in the memorable Lend Me a Tenor at Powerhouse?), this 2006 play, written by Broadway actor Paul Slade Smith, lacks an intelligent or feasible plot, but you will laugh at the ridiculous situations the characters find themselves in.

Clothes come off. Doors slam. Bedsheets are rumpled. People are caught in uncompromising positions. Innuendo is rampant. Everyone is running around like chickens with their heads cut off. In other words, it’s a farce in the true sense of the word.

However, like some bedroom farces, this one does not make your skin crawl. It’s PG-13, but does not resort to tawdry, sexist, or other overtly offensive devices. Sure sex is implied, and is had behind closed doors. There’s a few curse words. And I haven’t seen this many men, and one woman, in their underwear since being forced to gaze at those Calvin Klein ads in magazines – Photoshopped Justin Bieber and all.

The beauty of this play is in its innocence. The characters within are well and truly clued out.

I won’t go into too much depth with the scenario – best described by the tagline: Two cops. Three crooks. Eight doors. Go! – as it really is just a plot setup to get all these people in and out of two hotel rooms… yes, with eight doors. But what I will say is that it takes energy, impeccable timing, and chutzpah to pull off this particular production.

The cast of seven do just that. There isn’t a weak link in the bunch.

Matthew Dobson, who has an uncanny resemblance to director Brown, projects as loudly as Basil Fawlty, right up to the sweat on his brow. However, unlike the stuck-up Brit, he is a sweet, nerdy, hard-up American cop named Eric Sheridan.

His sidekick, Billie Dwyer (delightful Jo Dixon, making her debut on the stage after working on many productions behind the scenes), is a donut-loving, highly exuberant officer trying to prove her mettle to disastrous results.

Roped into a sting by the cops to catch a supposed embezzling mayor on camera is poor accountant Karen Brown, played by Tanya Laing Gahr.

She is an absolute natural at farce. Her facial expressions as she “heats up,” resulting in having to undress numerous times, are priceless.

The mayor (Kelly Winston, looking mighty fine in his purple shirt, sticking out of his half-zipped fly) is best described by his last name, Meekly. He is meek, mild, and as it turns out, the smartest guy in the room.

And watch out for the mayor’s wife, Mary Meekly (welcome back to the stage Therese Parent), who comes across as meek, but there’s something lurking underneath that mild exterior.

You also gotta love Brent Raymond’s Agent Frank, who oozes with feigned machismo but quivers at the sound of bagpipes. Yep, there’s a Scottish air to this show.

And speaking of the pipes, and misunderstood accents, it’s impossible not to howl at the sight of Gabe Newman in full kilt and puffy sleeved regalia, topped with a bearskin hat like those worn by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. His Scottish Highland, I mean hitman, Todd, may wear boxers underneath his kilt, but his bod, I mean brogue, is all there.

Props also to the set crew who built those aforementioned eight doors and their frames. They all stood up to the constant opening, closing, and banging.

As Todd would say, it was all done with unnecessary farce, och aye, I think he means necessary force!

Good luck to the cast and crew as they take this play down to Oliver for the Okanagan Zone (O-Zone) Drama Festival, May 21 to 27.

Unnecessary Farce continues at the Powerhouse Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3 to Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. with matinées today and May 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.

– Kristin Froneman is the arts and entertainment editor at the Vernon Morning Star.