Officers Eric Sheridan (Anthony Lawton) and Billie Dwyer (Karen Peakes) tie up Todd (Jake Blouch) in Act II Playhouse's production of UNNECESSARY FARCE, now extended until March 29. (Photo credit: Mark Garvin)

Spring Forward With UNNECESSARY FARCE At Act II

“Two Cops. Three Crooks. Eight Doors. One Killer in a Kilt.” Ambler’s Act II Playhouse is bringing much needed laughs to their audiences with a springy production of Paul Slade Smith’s UNNECESSARY FARCE. It’s directed by David Bradley and runs in their Butler Avenue theatre from now through March 29.

In spite of recent horrendous weather, I was able to make my way to Act II in Ambler, and boy, am I glad I did. UNECESSARY FARCE is frothy confection of silliness that will chase all thoughts of this rough winter away. Director Bradley has assembled a cast of seven terrific comedic actors, conducting the comedy like a maestro. Slade Smith adds his name to the very short list of playwrights able to construct a consistently funny farce.

In farce, timing is everything and Act II’s cast is terrific at it, led by Anthony Lawton and Karen Peakes as two rather inept police officers trying to pull off a sting operation on the town’s mayor. Lawton and Peakes have terrific chemistry together, bouncing jokes off each other with ease. Abetting their plan is a local town accountant who has discovered funds have been embezzled from the town’s coffers. Susan McKey plays the role perfectly. She and Lawton are romantically involved—again, great chemistry between the two as they act out their geeky affair. It is McKey’s character that spends the bulk of the proceedings in her “dainties,” a requirement in farce. And, boy, does Ms. McKey have the figure to pull it off—way to go!

Preceding the mayor’s arrival is his security officer; Akeem Davis is a hoot as this overly zealous/overly paranoid Secret Service wannabe. Davis nails it. Tom Teti is the mayor, who appears to be a bit of a hapless fool at first. Teti plays it to the hilt, then surprises us all with his keen knowledge of the situation in the end. Gerri Weagraff is equally surprising—and funny—as his wife. Finally, there’s Jake Blouch, a whirlwind of laughs as a Scottish assassin. Don’t ask how he fits into the plot, ’cause I’m not going to tell you. You just have to go see the show.

Bradley has staged the piece with great attention to detail; the physical bits are always demanding in a farce, but Bradley and his actors make it look easy. Nice directorial touches are evident throughout and the pacing is perfect. All of the insanity plays out on Colin McIlvaine’s lovely set depicting two adjoining hotel rooms—with wonderful décor by Avista Theatrical Services. James Leitner lights the action appropriately, while Christopher Colucci provides a soundscape that punctuates things just right. Katherine Fritz has costumed the ensemble beautifully—including a full-on Scottish kilt and all the accompanying accoutrements. Credit goes to Samantha Bellomo for her fight choreography—especially on Act II’s intimate stage.

UNNECESSARY FARCE is laugh-out-loud- fun. I strongly recommend the trip to Ambler to catch Act II’s great production before it pulls up stakes on March 29.

by Paul Slade Smith
Directed by David Bradley
February 24—March 29, 2015
Act II Playhouse
56 E. Butler Avenue
Ambler, PA 19002

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Ellen Wilson Dilks

Ellen Wilson Dilks

EA reviewer with STAGE for several seasons now, Ellen recently took on the role of Project Coordinator for the site, handling the scheduling of our many writers and serving as their liaison with our member theatre companies. She has been active in the Philly theatre community for over three decades as an actress, dialect coach, dramaturg and director. Past directorial credits include PERMANENT COLLECTION, OUR TOWN and ALMOST, MAINE for the Players Club of Swarthmore, CHILDE BYRON at Allens Lane, STRING OF PEARLS at Widener University and THE LARAMIE PROJECT at Celebration Theatre. In addition, Ellen served as Assistant Director for VANITIES, RUN FOR YOUR WIFE and DEATHTRAP at Hedgerow Theatre. As a performer, she has appeared in Shakespeare (HAMLET and KING LEAR), Mamet (THE CRYPTOGRAM), Wilde (THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST) and Wilder (OUR TOWN), to name a few. Ellen was a Barrymore Nominator for three seasons and served as Assistant Director for two productions of the Adult Theatre School Ensemble at People's Light & Theatre Company.

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