Weekender

Millbrook Playhouse stages ‘roller-coaster’ comedy

“Unnecessary Farce” features a local cast who will perform shows through July 16.
“Unnecessary Farce” features a local cast who will perform shows through July 16. Photo provided

Area theater-goers can get ready to laugh when Millbrook Playhouse presents the farcical comedy, “Unnecessary Farce,” which opens July 1 and runs through July 16.

In the play, an embezzling mayor is set to meet his accountant in a motel room. Little does he know that two inexperienced cops have set up a sting and are in the adjoining room hoping to catch the meeting on video.

The plan would go off without a hitch if only one of the officers wasn’t having a secret affair, if they could keep track of who’s in what room, figure out how to work the surveillance equipment and if they could keep the accountant from taking off her clothes.

Throw in a bagpipe-playing hit man, the mayor’s nosey wife, a crooked security guard and you’ve got an operation for nonstop laughter.

Directed by Adam Knight, “Unnecessary Farce” features Samm Carroll as Karen Brown, Brett Epstein as Agent Frank, Matt Harris as Mayor Meekly, Dave Polgar as Todd, Lauren Riddle as Mary Meekly, Jeff Ronan as Eric and Danielle White as Billie.

“As silly as they are, the bad guys take advantage of how trusting everyone in the town is,” Knight said. “It’s wolves in a town of sheep. Ultimately the hero learns to be brave — as a cop and also in romance.”

“This play is a roller coaster,” Knight continued. “For instance, a cop runs from a hit man, mourns the loss of his partner, realizes that she’s actually alive, then has to run out the door in his boxer shorts.”

The cast spent a lot of time going through the script to find every detail, making sure they all knew exactly what happened when and where.

“With any farce, there are these super fun intricacies that create a roundabout way to solve a wonderfully outrageous situation,” Riddle said. “I came in thinking, ‘Eight doors? We will lose each other onstage!’

“Timing has been our biggest challenge — onstage and off,” she said. “We only have a week and a half of rehearsals. But we also wanted to find the truth in our heightened reality so that the comedy can come naturally.”

Riddle’s character is married to the mayor.

“She’s got secrets, which I don’t want to reveal just yet and spoil the fun for the audience,” Riddle said said. “So, we are exactly the same in being a big surprise for everyone!”

Epstein plays Agent Frank, the head of Town Hall Security whose job is to protect the mayor. Frank is confident and sure on one end but afraid and antsy on the other.

“It’s been very fun to play on that seesaw,” Epstein said. “When Agent Frank sets his mind on accomplishing a goal — even if there are 1,000 farcical detours on the way — he will get the job done. I love that about him.”

Before he arrived at Millbrook, Epstein examined the script for the mechanics of the comedy, jokes and punchlines.

“There are so many moving pieces that go into mounting a play like ‘Unnecessary Farce,’ ” he said. “Once we all got to Millbrook, we did table work and blocked the show. Throughout that process, we worked to figure out the comic timing and beats of each scene, which are so precise in a farce.”

“Every play is different, and the challenge with a farce is really making the plot — as ridiculous as it is — and the characters clear,” Knight said. “It’s not enough just to ‘be silly.’ There have to be rules to the silly.”

“Paul Slade Smith, the playwright, created these wonderfully innocent characters that keep finding themselves in fairly crude and asinine situations,” Riddle said. “The audience is always smarter than the characters, which I always think creates such a fun experience at the theater.”

Knight hopes that the audience gets many laughs from the show.

“And afterward, I hope they’ll recall the very fine actors involved,” he said. “Comedy is hard. It’s a lion tamer’s gig — and this cast is fearless.”

Millbrook’s intimate cabaret setting makes any production unique, and with a comedy like “Unnecessary Farce,” the experience for the actors and audience is particularly special.

“All of this madcap action takes place literally inches from the audience, and the energy in the room is electrifying,” Knight said. “It’s theater without a net.”

“This show is going to be such a blast,” Riddle said. “I hope everyone will walk away with their cheeks hurting they were laughing so hard.”

Epstein agreed.

“I hope they bring their fun drinks and their fun foods and that they laugh, laugh, laugh all their problems away,” he said. “They will experience the most perfect, most hilarious, most absurd, most fun-filled evening out of the whole year. It is completely ‘necessary’ that you come and see this hilarious comedy.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Millbrook Playhouse’s “Unnecessary Farce”
  • When: July 1-16
  • Where: Millbrook Playhouse, 258 Country Club Lane, Mill Hall
  • Info: www.millbrookplayhouse.org
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