There are two cops, three crooks, two rooms and eight doors. Good luck keeping track of it all.
Audiences will try their best during the run of Paul Slade Smith’s “Unnecessary Farce,” Marathon Community Theatre’s newest comedy.
Directed by Diane Dashevsky, the show tells the story of a hilariously bungled police sting operation set between two adjacent motel rooms. As embezzling Mayor Meekly (Jim Zimmerman) and his bodyguard Agent Frank (Craig Zabransky) prepare to meet with his accountant Karen Brown (Noelle Belden) who seemingly has a hard time keeping her clothes on, officers Billie Dwyer (Sharon Young) and Eric Sheridan (Skip Lefler) prepare to catch the encounter on tape via a hidden camera with a video feed to the room next door.
Hilarity ensues as the camera catches nearly every piece of incriminating evidence the motel room has to hide – though not the ones it was intended for.
The cops’ plans are soon discovered by all the wrong people and complicated by the interference of a hired gun from the Scottish Mob. The infamous “Highland Hitman,” played by Ashley Andrews, has an unusual habit: he dresses in a full kilt and serenades his marks with the bagpipes before their untimely demise. And while his Scottish accent is thick throughout the play, it becomes nearly – and purposely – unintelligible as he gets angry with his victims.
“I came in and auditioned, and I hadn’t seen the script,” recalled Andrews. “(Diane) said, ‘Can you do Scottish?’ I said, ‘Give me 10 minutes.’ I went to the car, YouTubed how to do a Scottish accent, and 10 minutes later I read five pages of the script.”
“I said, ‘Part’s yours if you want it,’ right there on the spot,” said Dashevsky.
“Unnecessary Farce” is MCT’s most ambitious physical comedy in recent years. With actors dashing around, doors slamming, and action constantly shifting from one room to the next, the show relies on the physical placement of its characters just as much as, if not more than, the words coming out of their mouths.
“The doors are crazy,” said Andrews. “I haven’t done anything this physical in five years.”
Dashevsky describes her cast as a “director’s dream,” saying that she has enjoyed allowing the experienced actors to experiment with their own direction beyond the basic skeleton of the movements, entrances and exits laid out by Smith.
“I said, ‘Look, you’re all experienced actors. Your blocking is in the script. Anything else, I want to see what you bring,” said Dashevsky. “I wanted to give them that freedom.”
With only a few rehearsals left until opening night, the cast was hard at work perfecting their timing with a script that only grows more hilarious as its frantic pace increases. The group is often challenged to run two conversations that cue off of one another simultaneously in the “separate” rooms – but not make it obvious that they’re doing so.
“You’re taking cues, but not from the person you’re talking to. It’s from the person in the other room,” said Zabransky. “You’re still engaged in a conversation over here, and you wait for that line, and then you continue where you’re going.”
“Unnecessary Farce” runs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. from May 12-28, with a matinee on Sunday, May 22 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $28 and available by visiting www.marathontheater.org or calling 305-743-0994. Patrons are advised that the show contains adult situations and language.
Eric Sheridan – Skip Lefler
Billie Dwyer – Sharon Young
Karen Brown – Noelle Belden
Mayor Meekly – Jimmy Zimmerman
Agent Frank – Craig Zabransky
Todd – Ashley Andrews
Mary Meekly – Suzanne Terpos