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THEATER REVIEW: "Unnecessary Farce"

There’s farce as an art form, and there’s farce as nonstop, goofball humor with nary a nod to reality.

Well, maybe “art form” is overstating it, but Playwright Paul Slade Smith nails his intent with the title of his 2006 “Unnecessary Farce,” and the play lives up (or down) to its goal with a crazy story and seven actors accomplished at farce to interpret it. Matthew Wiener (frantically) directs this San Diego premiere through May 10 at North Coast Repertory Theatre.

The plot takes place in adjoining (and mirror-image, down to the art on the walls) motel rooms “in a big town/small city somewhere in America,” where a couple of incompetent cops have set up a sting operation on the mayor, suspected of embezzling $16 million.

In one room, officers Eric (Christopher M. Williams) and Billie (Jacque Wilke) – the latter so hopeless she totes a squirt gun instead of the real thing – have set up a meeting between Mayor Meekly (Ted Barton) and new (and seductive) accountant Karen Brown (Jessica John), in which she is to get him to admit the graft on video. In the adjoining room, the video equipment is ready to go.

There’s a minor bug in the ointment: Karen and Eric seem to have developed a “thing” for each other in the short time since they met, and Karen can’t seem to keep her clothes on, especially when she’s around Eric. Can she keep her clothes on long enough to get the job done?

Let’s see, who have I forgotten? Ah yes, Agent Frank (John Nutten), on the mayor’s security detail, who charges into the sting room to check it for, you know, bugs, recording equipment, that sort of thing, and of course misses it.

But that’s because he’s really working for the Official Bad Guy of the piece, a bagpipe-tootling Scot nicknamed the Highland Hit Man, played to a T by David McBean. He’s especially funny when he gets angry, because his Scottish brogue gets too thick to understand, leading to more hilarity.

There’s one more (unfortunately underwritten) character – the mayor’s wife, Mary Meekly (Dagmar Krause Fields), who appears now and again in search of her husband.

Did I mention there are eight doors, two more than the prescribed number for a farce? They offer numerous opportunities for confusion, mistaken identity and general mayhem.

These game (and very skilled) actors alternately pick up the slippery ball and lob it into the audience, with the desired result – much laughter.

Resident scenic designer Marty Burnett’s matching hotel rooms (with all those doors managing to withstand all the slamming) and Alina Bokovikova’s fine costumes (many pieces of which end up elsewhere than on their owners) add to the craziness, as do Matt Novotny’s spotlight-bright lighting and Melanie Chen’s sound design.

No one will confuse “Unnecessary Farce” with great theater, but most viewers will likely go home giggling at all the craziness.

The details

“Unnecessary Farce” plays through May 10, 2015 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Suite D in Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm. Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or click HERE

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.