‘Funny Money’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria by Julia L. Exline

The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents Funny Money, a British farce by Ray Cooney about an ordinary man who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. Shawn G. Byers directs this comedic whirlwind, and a talented cast rises to the (extremely) chaotic occasion.

Gayle Nichols-Grimes (Betty Johnson), Charlene Sloan (Jean Perkins), and Erik Harrison (Henry Perkins). Photo by Doug Olmsted.
Gayle Nichols-Grimes (Betty Johnson), Charlene Sloan (Jean Perkins), and Erik Harrison (Henry Perkins). Photo by Doug Olmsted.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria is known for its elaborate sets, and Funny Money is no exception. Designer Marian Holmes shows the interior of a charming home, with polished wooden furniture, floral arrangements, and framed artwork. David Doll, Dan Remmers, and their team construct a set of handsome sliding doors, which offer a peek into an offstage dining room, and a staircase that leads to an upper level. Sound Designer David Correia uses special effects like talk-radio and a ringing telephone, and the stage remains well-lit throughout the production by Lighting Designer Chris Hardy. Beverly Benda chooses costumes fit for the upper-middle class, utilizing suits, overcoats, and housedresses paired with pearls.

Jean Perkins (Charlene Sloan) is busily preparing a birthday dinner for her husband, Henry (Erik Harrision), when he enters the home in a zombie-like state that quickly dissolves into a manic frenzy, during which he insists that she pack a bag so that they can leave the country at once. Henry explains to his startled and confused wife that he mistakenly picked up someone else’s briefcase upon leaving work…and that briefcase happens to hold a large fortune in cash. What follows is a frenzied evening full of visitors, accusations, mistaken identities, and other various falsehoods. Gayle Nichols-Grimes and Ted Culler play Betty and Vic Johnson, friends of the couple who arrive to celebrate Henry’s birthday, and instead find themselves woven into a tangled web that includes two federal agents (Larry Grey as Inspector Davenport and Marisa Johnson as Slater) and a put-upon cab driver named Bill (a riotous John Shackelford).

Harrison is fantastic as the quick-thinking Henry, who piles lie upon lie in order to satisfy his curious visitors, while trying desperately to keep his hysterical wife and slow-minded friend from ruining everything. These two characters are particularly annoying (Jean seems to do nothing but nag her husband in a increasingly shrill shriek, and Vic’s dumbfounded nature gets particularly frustrating) but they are played well by the actors. Gayle Nichols-Grimes is also particularly enjoyable as Betty, who embraces the situation as if she is starring in her own personal soap opera. Will Henry be able to pull of the scheme of a lifetime?

The ever-changing plot is incredibly fast-paced, and it can be tough to keep up with. However, if you’re able, then the well-directed actors do not disappoint. If farcical humor is your cup of tea, then Funny Money is a must-see!

Erik Harrison (Henry Perkins) and Charlene Sloan (Jean Perkins). Photo by Doug Olmsted.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Funny Money plays through September 29, 2012 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 683-0496, or order them online.


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