Encore Michigan

‘Unnecessary Farce’ at Mason Street is a hoot

Review July 28, 2019 Sue Merrell

SAUGATUCK — An actor hopping around the stage with his pants around his ankles is always funny, so it really isn’t necessary to add a mirror image of the scene on the other side of the stage.

An entanglement of half-dressed bodies cavorting on a bed for some totally innocent purpose will always look wildly risqué, so it really isn’t necessary to repeat with a different collection of characters every time the door opens.

And a character sputtering unintelligible Scottish brogue is silly enough. It’s really not necessary to have another character spew a fast-talk translation without taking a breath.

No, none of these over-the-top shenanigans are necessary. Oh, but, they are so funny.

Unnecessary Farce, which opened Friday at Mason Street Warehouse, is probably the most egregious, in-your-face, fast-paced nonsense I have ever seen. I dare you not to laugh.

From the opening scene when the story’s eager hero is trying to get dressed while talking on a traditional wired phone to the last line when the villain is dragged away shouting the play’s title, there’s barely a chance to take a breath.

Although plot is usually thin in such staged madness this farce actually offers some unexpected twists and turns for a very satisfying story.

The tale takes place in adjoining motel rooms with a connecting door. On one side,  two young cops, Eric and Billie, are preparing to record a meeting in the other room between their accomplice, attractive accountant Karen Brown, and Mayor Meekly, whom they think is cooking the books. But the plot thickens when the town hall security guard Agent Frank shows up and reveals an unlikely tale about the Scottish mafia and a bagpipe-toting assassin.

All seven cast members are perfect in their roles. The cops are familiar faces.  Lanky Teddy Yudain who plays Eric is new to Mason Street but has frequently appeared at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in Holland. One of his best moments in this show is when he uses his voice to fake the sound of bagpipes.

Billie is played by Amanda Ryan Paige, a lively sprite in numerous Mason Street productions including the 2006 and 2016 versions of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”  Though she has many masterful moments one of the best is her speedy translation of unintelligible Scottish brogue.

The role of the fiery Scottish assassin seems written for red-headed Chris Blisset, who has acted and directed in numerous shows at Mason Street including last season’s musical “Once.”  In addition to the acting role, he is listed in Unnecessary Farce as “combat choreographer,”  which means he is probably responsible for sorting all the arms and legs in those bed-top boondoggles.

Mary Robin Roth, who has appeared in numerous Mason Street shows, delivers a small but important performance as the mayor’s deceptively ditzy wife.

The show features talented newcomers as well. Kate Thomsen is on fire as Karen Brown, the prim accountant with a sizzling sexy side. Joel Gelman  is wonderful as the penitent –but sometimes seductive—Agent Frank. John Shuman is a surprising hit as the mousy little mayor.

Set designer Daniel G. Guyette has created two identical motel rooms duplicating every picture on the walls and tiny details like smoke alarms and room sprinkler nozzles. Kudos to lighting designer Jennifer Kules for the spotlights that create such a polished finale.

Now I know some sticklers will say there is no way that skinny cop Eric can pass for the hefty, red-beared Scottish assassin just by wearing a kilt and a furry black hat. But that’s the whole point of farce. Believability is never necessary.

In fact, about all that is necessary is adding Unnecessary Farce to your summer schedule before the end of the run on Aug. 10.