Two rookie cops. Three unpredictable pilferers. Eight doors. In one room, an alleged embezzling mayor is due to meet with his female accountant to discuss the budget. Meanwhile, in the room next-door, two undercover cops wait to catch the meeting on videotape. The sting goes awry when there’s some confusion as to who’s in which room, who’s being videotaped, who’s taken the money, who’s hired “The Highland Hitman,” and why the pretty accountant keeps taking off her clothes. (Yes, really!)
The two rooms are actually one open area, separated only by the passage between the two doors of these adjoining rooms. Two doors are front exits, two are back exits and two are closets. You can already hear the ‘coming out of the closet’ jokes waiting to be sprung!
Things seem to go very wrong every time one of the rookies opens a door. Act I opens with Eric (Jake Clarke), an awkward and horny young man, assuring his boss the surveillance cameras are set for the mayor’s arrival. Enter Billie (Christine Cauchon) in uniform — which kinda defeats the purpose of being undercover. And what cop surveillance would be complete without doughnuts? Cauchon’s overly dramatic character makes for the perfect bumbling novice, and she’s got a sense of humor to boot. You can’t help but love her. Cauchon embraces her part whole-heartedly. “The role of Billie is one of my hardest to date. The physical comedy, the timing, the high speed nature of the show in general is all new to me in the scripted world. I’ve loved every second of working on it, especially the cast and crew. It’s been such a positive rehearsal room, and that really is such a joy.”
Eric apparently has some skill in the bedroom, despite his gawky mannerisms. As Karen (Emily Carter) settles in her room waiting for the mayor, she can’t seem to control her urges to relieve Eric of his clothing. This seems to be a theme. She later undresses for Agent Frank (Daniel F. Green) when things get “hot.” Frank also seems to be a fledgling in the field. His blundering buffoonery creates some heated hoodwinking. We can’t tell if he’s trying to be good or bad.
When the sweet mayor enters Karen’s hotel room, things really liven up! He’s ready to get down to business. Unfortunately, the neophytes aren’t ready for him, and he is asked to wait in the lobby until Agent Frank can inspect the room for electronic bugging devices. Mayor Meekly is portrayed by Terry “Santa Claus in plain clothes” Simpson. With his great delivery and expressions, Simpson is a scene stealer who leaves you smiling!
Another scene stealer is Ryan Sekac, who portrays Todd, the jovial but crazy Scottish hitman. Ya gotta love his sneaky grin and articulate eyebrows, which seem to have a life all their own. His hair is as thick as his accent — which is incoherent to everyone but Billie. There are some fun moments trying to ken his meanin’. Also, we’re still not quite sure whether or not he can play a manly bagpipe, but he can rock a kilt! Hats off to costume designer Witt Tarantino for that one.
There is a lovely twist after Mayor Meekly’s wife, Mary (Sandy Cerel), enters Karen’s room. Simpson was especially pleased to share the stage again with Cerel, with whom he appeared in On Golden Pond at Arctic Playhouse.
Rebecca Magnotta is the director as well as the scenic designer of this Paul Slade Smith script at the Contemporary Theater Company. She has been with CTC since 2010, and this is her fourth production here (Rebecca is known for aggressively painting the sets deep into the night). Our hotel rooms were a calming, oceanic shade of green, pleasing to the eye. The French doors add a touch of class to the otherwise economy-class feel of the beds (which see a fair amount of activity as the night progresses). Lighting design credit goes to Jeremy Chaing.
Magnotta says this show was a departure from her norm. “I’m more used to directing Shakespeare,” she says, “which is a lot of poetry, and Unnecessary Farce is more of a machine. Every element is a gear, and at every moment, the gears need to turn in a very specific way to make the whole thing work.” It does. She adds, “Thankfully, I’ve had the privilege of working with some absolutely amazing artists who make the show happen.”
The folks who made the show happen seemed to really enjoy themselves, as they sometimes had a bit of trouble keeping a straight face, reminiscent of a live SNL skit. You will leave grinning too. At the end of the play, we learn what unnecessary farce really means.
Unnecessary Farce plays at the Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main St, Wakefield. Fridays and Saturdays Aug 10 – Sep 1. All shows at 7 pm