Bagpipes are deadly. Especially when they're played by a Highland Hitman who belongs to the Clan (with a C).
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Toss in some incompetent cops, some doughnuts, and clothes that slip down faster than a Floridian on ice, and you have the elements that begin to make up Paul Slade Smith's world premiere of Unnecessary Farce at BoarsHead Theatre in Lansing, Michigan.
It's a delightful script played to perfection by the ensemble of seven actors, five of them Actor's Equity. As a farce, it demands--and gets--constant energy and motion. It opens in a pair of adjacent, connecting hotel rooms. A pair of cops have been assigned to spy on the mayor while he meets with a new accountant who has uncovered some serious embezzlement.
There is a delightful cast of fleshed-out characters who had to the humor of this farce with their quirks and fears. Officers Billie Dwyer (Erin Noel Grennan, wife to the playwright) and Eric Sheridan (Doug MacKechnie) are incompetent, but highly earnest and honest cops who are convinced this will be their big break. Never mind that Dwyer is afraid of guns, the dark, and enclosed spaces and that Sheridan has been too shy to even ask a woman on a date for years. All that is about to change.
First, Accountant Karen Brown (Kate Berry) and Sheridan realize that their talking and sitting on the bed was an aggressive form of flirting. They'd pursue this if it weren't for the fact that the bumbling Mayor Meekly (Len Kluge, a local reviewer who stepped in at the last minute) keeps popping in for his meeting--a meeting that gets delayed by Agent Frank (Jim Wisniewski). Agent Frank warns Karen of a Clan (with a C) that controls the city. It's led by Big Mac and the Highland Hitman who plays bagpipes for his victims before shooting them.
Add to the mix Mayor Meekly's wife (played by the ever-popular local actress Carmen Decker) who wanders through looking for her husband and the Scottish Todd (David Girolmo) who gave everyone reason to fear him and his Scottish brogue.
All of the characters have a wonderful sense of both comic timing and extreme physicality. They were fully committed to each role and were obviously enjoying the play as much as the audience was.
Director Kristine Thatcher beautifully choreographed this constantly moving play, keeping the pacing and energy high.
Smith has written a show that is in the finest tradition of farces. It is his second play, this one was written while he was on tour with Phantom. When BoarsHead picked it up for its 2006-2007 season, he took leave from his tour with Wicked (he plays Elphaba's father) to help workshop the play. It's a farce that deserves to see many more productions, especially if they can all have the casting and direction that this show benefited from.
Show details: Oct. 25-Nov. 19 at BoarsHead Theater in Lansing, Michigan. Shows times are 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays.
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