Consider this scenario: There are two cops, three crooks and eight doors circling about a sleazy motel room, and an embezzling mayor is poised to meet with his female accountant, while two undercover detectives try to catch the meeting on videotape.
Sounds like something you would see on an episode on one of CBS’ latest crime dramas, but it’s actually the plot of Paul Slade Smith’s comedy masterpiece, “Unnecessary Farce.”
The McLean Community Players will be staging the popular show from April 29 through May 14, under the direction of Jessie Roberts.
“This is a really good company to work with. They are very friendly and flexible and try to give the directors what they need and what they want,” Roberts said. “The Alden Theatre is a wonderful theater to work out of, with its great sound system and light system and wing space…a lot of things other community theatres don’t have.”
Roberts has performed in two plays for MCP and has directed one other, and is looking forward to “Unnecessary Farce” being up and running.
“It’s really, really funny,” she said. “When you read books or plays or any printed material, even when it’s funny, it’s rare to laugh out loud, but I was laughing out loud when I read this script.”
For those unfamiliar with the play, “Unnecessary Farce” combines all the elements of a classic farce with a contemporary American plot: the police procedural.
The director admitted that doing farce can be very challenging. It’s not just about letting the actors getting on stage and acting silly.
“In all honesty, I think it’s one of the most difficult genres to direct because you have to walk that fine line between farce and just silly slapstick,” Roberts said. “Farce can get pretty ludicrous, but you have to make sure that people can relate to it and it’s not just foolish. It’s a funny distinction but it’s definitely a distinction.”
Finding that line, Roberts said, takes almost a gut reaction and she often talks with the actors about finding things that cross the line from simple reality.
“It’s almost like art, I’ll know it when I see it and if they go too far, I’ll reign them back, and if I think they can go further, I will tell them to take it another step,” she said. “It’s just what makes you laugh but doesn’t look ludicrous and there are some borderline things in the play, but it’s just funny.”
That’s a word that pops up a lot when talking to cast members.
“When we were looking at it as a possible show for the season, I said we just had to do it because people will fall on the floor laughing,” said Bob Sams, who plays Mayor Meekly, and is back on stage performing for the first time in four years. “It is unusual in that it’s a modern American farce, with doors slamming, people running around with their pants off and being very silly.”
Marilyn Pizer, who plays the small but juicy role of Mary Meekly, the mayor’s wife, noted you can’t help but laugh when thinking about the show.
“It’s fast paced. The writing is brilliant. There’s so many clever jokes written into the script and also the physicality is just an awful lot of fun. No one is going to fall asleep watching this show,” she said. “It’s a great group of actors and everyone really brings interest and depth to their characters. I like Mary because she’s got a surprise or two up her sleeve.”
With so much going on in the world—bombings, the political climate, divorces—Roberts said this play is a great escape.
“In this age, and the time we are in, just having something plain old funny is very refreshing. People can just laugh and laughter is the best medicine,” Roberts said. “There’s not a lot of subtext, there isn’t a lot of heavy message, the good guys win in the end, and it’s just fun.”