An existential question: When does a so-called unnecessary farce become necessary? Answer: When the past week’s real-life political drama has become unbearable.
Nothing could be timelier than the comic relief of Riverwalk Theatre’s production of “Unnecessary Farce,” a Paul Slade Smith play that is directed with precision and perfection by Jeff Magnuson.
Arguably, there are traditional lead and supporting characters in this play, but it has the feel of an ensemble cast, wherein quirky individual characterizations outshine the absurdity of the plot, which unfolds in two adjacent hotel rooms.
In and out we go, doors opening, knocking actors to the ground — comic timing and overlapping lines creating abundant laughs.
Chief among equals is Jesse Frawley in the role of Todd, the Highland Hitman from the Scottish Mafia. Frawley’s Scotch brogue alone is a scene-stealing garble of nonsensical syllables that confuse the other actors and the audience as well — at one point evoking a rousing round of applause. Rachel Daugherty, in the role of Officer Billie Dwyer, evokes a second round of applause when Billie interprets his soliloquy in rapid fire clear English. Bravo to both. Daugherty’s characterization of Billie is a constant delight to watch, as she downs doughnuts with widening eyes while watching a video of what is happening in an adjacent room.
Eric Sheridan is the second cop, Steve, and along with Leigh Christopher as Karen Brown, an accountant is involved in multiple scenes of fervent passionate kisses and rapid disrobing — a parody of the sweaty scenes we see often in movies. Director Magnuson called in Amanda Tollstam as an “intimacy director.” Tollstam writes of herself as a choreographer in the program notes, which read, “she is better known for more upright choreography.”
Doak Bloss is Mayor Meekly and lives up to the name of his character, displaying an “Oh my!” confusion, a baffled befuddlement, as he drifts in and out of the action on the stage. Watching his character come through a door, spin around; step out, then in again in a swirl is delightfully amusing all by itself.
Perhaps the funniest of many laughable scenes is where we discover that Mayor Meekly’s wife Mary, portrayed by Gini Larson, is possibly more than what she seem. Could she secretly be Big Mack, the godmother of the Scottish Mafia? Hmm.
Cops and Mafioso circle each other with guns drawn and the bed that separates them becomes, well, you must see it to get the sight gag.
As to the title “Unnecessary Farce,” what prompts the use of the word unnecessary? The explanation ends the play with a wide grin and an “Oh, I finally get it!” groan.
Tickets start at $10
Thursday, 7 p.m., Friday, 8 p.m.
Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m.
228 Museum Dr., Lansing
(517) 482-5700, riverwalktheatre.com