Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 7, 2016

Unnecessary Farce

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through November 20, 2016
by Shera Cohen
When I look at the word “farce” in a play’s title or as a key description of what I am about to see, I immediately count the number of doors onstage. As it turns out, the cover of Playhouse on Park’s program book for “Unnecessary Farce” had already printed the words in a large font – eight doors. Eight, hmm? This was sure to be fun.

Playhouse is a small theatre, both outside and in, yet its stage is large, permitting enough room to hold just about any piece of theatre. The audience sits on three sides, evenly distributed, with the stage as the fourth wall. Sight-lines are perfect. Its actors are a mixture of Equity and community pros – it is impossible to know which actors have the credits and which do not. Besides, it doesn’t matter.

Comedies, especially those with an emphasis on farce, are about as brainless as one might expect. Playhouse does perform some meaty works; i.e. a Eugene O’Neill play is scheduled for this winter. However, this lark is sheer fun. And, yes, every door is opened and shut (sometimes slammed) countless times.

Our heroes, two rookie cops on their first stake-out, set up a sting to catch the mayor’s embezzlement scheme. With an invisible wall center-stage, are two abutting hotel rooms. There are lots of fast comings and goings which also include a couple of crooks and an “assistant crook”.

Although “Farce” is an ensemble work, Susan Slotoroff (Police Officer Billie) takes the helm. Slotoroff plays newbie Billie with humorous bravado and effervescence. Will Hardyman (Officer Eric) embodies his nebbish role with fun. Julie Robles makes her Playhouse debut as a purposely over-the-top lovelorn accountant, Mike Boland gives his Agent Frank a no-nonsense ridiculous Jack Webb demeanor, and John-Patrick Driscoll depicts physical humor with aplomb.

Director Russell Treyz creates “Farce” somewhat as a circus. Every member of his cast moves fast and is extremely agile. The two side-by-side beds quickly become the literal jumping off point when the play’s action sparks. Even the 6’+ Driscoll is nimble on his feet. It must also be noted that Driscoll’s indecipherable Scottish brogue offers the play’s funniest moments.

“Unnecessary Farce” might not be necessary to see. For those who want laughs, it comes close.