All the necessary hijinx for an exuberant ‘Farce’
Kevin McKillip, (from left), Erin Noel Grennan, and Molly Glynn give their comedy skills a workout in "Unnecessary Farce."
First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W 31st St., just off Route 83, Oak Brook
8 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 4
$30-$37, with discounts available for students and senior citizens
(630) 986-8067 or visit www.firstfolio.org
Updated: February 7, 2012 9:22PM
Fast paced, totally silly and punctuated by sexual shenanigans and constantly slamming doors, “Unnecessary Farce” has all the joyfully ridiculous elements of a classic farce. Sure, Paul Slade Smith’s romp of frequently pantsless cops, Scottish mafia dons (who knew?) and clueless politicos (please to excuse the redundancy) lacks the satiric bite of, say Moliere.
Then again, Smith is gleefully not about high-brow social criticism. “Unnecessary Farce,” from the self-deprecating title onward, embraces its own ridiculousness — as does director Alison Vesely in a staging that’s keeps up a frantic pace and an exuberantly frivolous attitude throughout.
The plot in First Folio Theatre’s staging is so stupid it doesn’t really matter. And I mean that as a compliment; it takes a skilled bunch of comics to make stupidity funny rather than annoying. There are also more twists than you’ll find in a jumbo-sized canister of silly string, and it simply wouldn’t do to give away the jokes. Suffice to say the basic outline involves chuckleheaded cops Eric Sheridan (Kevin McKillip) and Billie Dwyer (Erin Noel Grennan) and their bumbling, bungling attempts to bring down allegedly corrupt Mayor Meekly (veteran farceur Dale Benson).
The action unfolds in a cheap hotel, where comely accountant Karen Brown (Molly Glynn) is charged with taking down the mayor in a sting operation while Officers Sheridan and Dwyer watch via hidden video camera from the adjacent room.
Of course, once that hidden camera is switched on, it’s not long at all before it begins recording the randy hijinx of the smitten Sheridan and his inamorata, Ms. Brown. Where some shows have daunting technical challenges in regards to lighting cues or scenery changing, “Unnecessary Farce” is the theatrical Mount Everest of fast-paced disrobing (and robing).
We lost track of how many times McKillip and Glynn shimmied out down to their scanties within the first 30 minutes. In a lovely Valentine’s month touch, McKillip sets the tone in the first scene by entering in a pair of boxers adorned with little red hearts. His gymnastic-like undulations as he attempts to dress through a tangle of phone cords (it is a very cheap hotel), belts and zippers reveal an actor who has a way with physical comedy. (Also a fine pair of legs.)
Grennan is likewise terrific as a cop who didn’t quite make it out of the academy with flying colors thanks to a severe ineptitude with firearms and a failure at basic self-defense maneuvers. To her credit, Officer Dwyer does have a gift for understanding otherwise unintelligible Scottish brogues, which comes in handy when Scottish mob thug Todd (Joe Foust) shows up.
Foust, we’d like to note, once commandeered the proceedings at a major awards show by taking the stage wearing nothing more than a pair of tighty-whities and then proceeding to lick the emcee (almost) to death. In other words, this is a fellow with a long and storied history of being absolutely fearless when it comes to outrageous antics. As such, he’s pretty much perfect for the over-the-top foolery of “Unnecessary Farce.”
Tragedy, so they say, is hard, but comedy is darn near impossible. And farce is the trickiest of all. If the actors aren’t fully committed — if they even reveal so much as an inkling of the belief that the story they’re enmeshed in is completely preposterous — the whole show falls flatter than an overbaked meringue.
That doesn’t happen in “Unnecessary Farce.” The doors slam with precision (Angela Miller’s set design is a completely believable rendition of an all-American no-tell motel), the bagpipes caterwaul on cue and in the end, everything is happily resolved in terms of both sex and scam artists.
You can’t ask much more than that of a farce, unnecessary or not.