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‘Unnecessary Farce’ at Prince George’s Little Theatre by Amanda Gunther

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The heat is on! The fuzz is staked out on a mission to take down the mayor for 16 million dollars in embezzled funds and everything’s all set to blow like a powder keg. If only the chief of police hadn’t picked two bumbling idiots for the job. Even with their screw-ups all would be fine that is until the whole thing explodes when a hitman from the Scottish highlands who runs around in his kilt killing people with the bagpipes gets muddled into the mix. These are the shenanigans of epic hysterical proportions you have to look forward to as Prince George’s Little Theatre presents Unnecessary Farce.

Accountant Karen Brown (Shirley Panek of Bowie) welcomes Mayor Meekly and his wife Mary (Ken Kienas of Bowie and Rachel Duda of Greenbelt) to her motel room while the Mayor’s security guard Agent Frank (Eric Small of Bowie) sets up security in ‘Unnecessary Farce.’ Photo by Roy Peterson.

Directed by Keith Brown this farce will keep you in absolute stitches as every unimaginable thing that could go wrong goes wrong during this high-strung undercover sting operation. Brown brings an uproarious cast of goofballs to life on the stage for this show, executing a vast knowledge of comic timing, the importance of wit balanced against slapstick physical humor and an overall accomplished presentation of comedy for the audience’s enjoyment.

Brown highlights key moments by making bold distinguishing choices of when to utilize a more physical approach to the comedy and when to lead the words of playwright Slade Smith speak for themselves. The duality of the stage being split into two adjoining hotel rooms enhances these choices significantly. In one scene there are two actors in each room and the discourse between them is sensational. While all four actors stay mostly still as they deliver their lines in this scene, the way that questions get asked by people in one room and inadvertently responded to in another is beyond comical; letting the genius Smith as woven into his plot ring true without being bogged down in unnecessary physic exertions.

The opposite is also true when Brown chooses precise moments to incorporate high stakes physical slapstick, augmenting Smith’s intentions in the scene. In a scene toward the end there is a four-person gun-showdown in one of the rooms that could easily just be played as four people pointing guns at one another. But Brown takes this opportunity to intricately weave in a series of hyjinx that involves a moving carousel of people, gunmen crawling up and over the bed and crazy moments of uncertainty as they change their targets several times. Having this perfect balance and not letting the play be ruled by any one format of comedy really makes this a thoroughly enjoyable show.

The acting talent is a riot. Most of the characters are played over the top, giving in to the nature of the farce, letting us really relish in the gross comical nature of what’s happening. As the show progresses the comic bombs just keep dropping and by the end you’re left laughing so hard you won’t be able to see straight. Entrances and exits are timed flawlessly adding that extra spark of fun to an already disastrously hilarious situation.

Pulling from the vault of familiar characters Agent Frank (Eric Small) is the epitome of the uptight security guard who has let his job title become all too important in his mind. Small speaks in that highly important totally monotone authoritative voice when first crashing onto the scene to let everyone know he’s extremely important, even if that importance is just in his head. His scene with Miss Brown is highly amusing as he misreads her signals and sheds his outer secret agent shell breaking down into a more comical and aloof fellow.

Giving us another great stock character, the simple-minded Mayor Meekly (Ken Kienas) adds a comic element simply by showing up into scenes where he really ought not to be. Kienas’ presence on stage is limited but with the simplest of arrivals and the most exasperated looks of shock and surprise on his face he makes the comic bumbling of everyone else that much funnier.

The fantastic four are what really heat things up in this outrageous story. The ditzy and slightly spastic new-kid cop Billie Dwyer (Elsbeth Clay) and her partner Eric Sheridan (Mike Larson) make their scenes beyond laughable with their silly antics, simple expressions and ridiculous physicality. Clay nails the part of ridiculous, panicking with passion over the silliest things. Her wordplay with Miss Brown continues to build to epic heights of hysterics when discussing the mission and her scenes where she’s intently glued to the video monitor are reminiscent of a house wife sucked into her soaps. Larson, attempting to lead the bungling mission, has equal moments of chaotic hilarity like when he buttons the phone cord inside his shirt. His passionate interactions with Miss Brown in their on-again off-again tryst is nothing short of comic genius.

Then there’s Miss Brown (Shirley Panek) who is the epitome of farcical acting. Her voice is always so very uncertain, making everything a comedic guessing game, giving the audience a good laugh at literally everything she does. And when she starts panicking her mode of relief is naturally to take off all her clothes! Paired up in several scenes with the extremely talented Todd (Jim Adams) she makes for one riotous ride as her surmounting interactions build exponentially to create comic excellence.

Adams is a master of many things in this show, in particular having the perfect balance between a Scottish accent that is distinguishable and intelligible and one that is raging and completely inaudible other than various curse words. It’s accented acting at its finest and his sexual comparison during the scene with his broken pipes will leave you in stitches.

Don’t get arrested or taken down by The Scottish Clan – with a ‘C’ – in the process of trying to see this comic disaster, just make sure you get a seat before the security guards are forced to use an ‘unnecessary farce’ on you.

Mob hit man Todd (Jim Adams of Greenbelt) and Agent Frank (Eric Small of Bowie), the security guard for the Mayor, have a tense moment in Prince George’s Little Theatre’s production of ‘Unnecessary Farce,’ Photo by Roy Peterson.

Running Time: Two hours with one intermission.

Unnecessary Farce plays through September 1, 2012 at The Bowie Playhouse, located in White Marsh Park – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458, or purchase them online.

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