Farce is one of those concepts, like irony, that has been diluted by being invoked too regularly. When we get disgusted with a certain level of incompetence, at anything from a congressional procedure to a sporting event, we label it a farce, as a generic synonym for awful.
A true bedroom farce, however, is as painstakingly constructed and delicate as a toothpick Eiffel Tower, and a sublime example of ridiculousness achieved by careful intelligence. Yes, there are, as a rule, people in their underwear where they shouldn’t be, slamming doors, mistaken identities, innuendo, public humiliation, shouting and slapstick. No, this genre of theater rarely wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama. But it sure can be fun.
Paul Slade Smith’s “Unnecessary Farce” is true and improper bedroom farce, as pure an example of the genre as Michael Frayn’s classic “Noises Off.” The Dunwoody Stage Door Players are giving it a regional premiere through October 17, directed with Energizer-bunny gusto by Robert Egizio and staged by a crisp group of pros who are able to keep up with the subtle demands of the material, especially the need for impeccable timing.
The scene is two adjoining hotel rooms (a nicely tacky set by Chuck Welcome). In one room, two cops, Eric (John Markowski) and Billie (Annie York), are setting up a sting against the town’s mayor (Larry Davis) using an attractive accountant, Karen Brown (Carrie Walrond Hood), in the adjacent room. But the cops are incompetent (Eric’s clumsy and timid, Billie’s like a Labrador retriever with a badge), the mayor is clueless, and Karen is too sexually frustrated to keep her role straight. Or her clothes on.
Smith builds an escalating symphony of frantic chaos, involving a hidden video camera, handcuffs, handguns, missing clothes and even doughnuts; then he introduces new characters to the mix. First comes Agent Frank (Alan Phelps), the mayor’s security detail, who is deranged in some new and as-yet-undiagnosed way, and definitely a couple of rounds short of a six-shooter; Todd “The Highland Hitman” (Jacob York), a Scottish assassin who lapses into an incomprehensible garbled brogue when stressed; and the mayor’s wife (Holly Stevenson), who may be the only one on stage with any sense, or all her clothes.
At one point, the playwright allows himself a “meta” aside, when he has the mayor proclaim, “Just people running in and out of rooms, taking off their clothes; that’s hardly a plot.” It’s funny because that’s a lot of what the plot has been to that point, and in some ways all it ever is; part of the thrill of bedroom farce is enjoying how many contorted reasons the playwright can concoct for people to run in and out of rooms in states of partial dishabille. (But for all the underwear on display, it’s really a PG show.) “Unnecessary Farce” is good-natured, goofy and, if not a necessity, an indulgence that will give you an evening of laughs.