Vienna Theatre Company’s production of Paul Slade Smith’s “Unnecessary Farce” is ridiculous in the extreme – and a welcome relief from all the nuttiness in the real world.
The setup is pretty basic: Undercover police officers Eric Sheridan (the always enjoyable Bruce Alan Rauscher) and Billie Dwyer (Kate Bierly) are conducting a sting operation at a motel. The pair, who right from the get-go are revealed as screw-ups, hope to record video of Mayor Meekly (Steve Rosenthal) revealing details of financial corruption to accountant Ms. Brown (played by Liz Owerbach).
Officer Dwyer never should have made it out of the police academy. She wears her full uniform to the stakeout, instead of plain clothes, and has been allowed to carry only a water pistol instead of an actual firearm. Billie hopes to break a big case and validate herself as a real cop; Sheridan merely is trying to avoid being fired.
Bierly gets off some great lines as Billie and does well with the physical comedy, too, after being discovered, bound and gagged by the bad guys.
When Ms. Brown and Sheridan confer before the meeting, the audience learns the pair had been flirting the previous evening, although nothing happened.
The mayor’s security man, Agent Frank (Dave Wright), arrives and turns out to be actually insecure, easily spooked and not terribly bright or competent.
“That’s one healthy-looking ficus!” he says when noticing a plant on the floor that’s concealing the officers’ hidden camera.
Frank reveals that a powerful Scottish clan (“with a ‘c,’ he stresses repeatedly) actually runs the town and its hit man Todd (Bob Cohen) likes to put on full Scottish garb and play the bagpipes before dispatching his victims.
Cohen is a riot to watch and keeps up a steady Scottish burr that the other characters routinely can’t understand. (Billie manages to do so on one occasion – and at great length.)
Slapstick is the order of the day in this show, which is directed by Eddie Page and produced by Laura Fargotstein. Some of the gags are over-the-top and run long. One must be ready not only to suspend disbelief, but put it in the witness-protection program for the play’s duration.
The mayor’s wife (Janice Zucker) pops into the rooms occasionally while looking for her husband. She has a larger role to play, but we won’t spoil it here.
Rosenthal also performs well as the genial mayor and, like Zucker, gets to flesh out his role in the second act. Owerbach in enjoyable as the sex-starved accountant and she has a solid dynamic with her paramour, played by Rauscher.
The set designed by John Downing consists of two adjoining motel rooms, both of which have plenty of doors and closets where characters can scamper and hide out of view at the last moment.
The play has a slight bit of profanity and mild sexual references that make it unsuitable for younger children. For those sufficiently mature, however, it offers plenty of levity.
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“Unnecessary Farce” runs through May 7 at the Vienna Community Center, 120 Cherry St., S.E. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets cost $15. For more information, visit viennatheatrecompany.org.