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Actually, the farce is definitely necessary

Drayton Entertainment plays up the slapstick in Unnecessary Farce at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge

Drayton Entertainment’s latest production is a farce to be reckoned with.

Playwright Paul Slade Smith’s Unnecessary Farce opens at Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge next week after a successful run in Grand Bend earlier this summer.

The comedy follows two bumbling police officers, Eric Sheridan and Billie Dwyer, who pursue the allegedly shady Mayor Meekly to a hotel where he’s meeting his accountant, Karen Brown. For some reason, her clothes can’t seem to stay on.

As the cops attempt to videotape the meeting from the other room, it’s safe to say their undercover operation doesn’t go as planned.

“We have one room, that’s where the cops are, and the other room we call the sting room, that’s where they try to trap the mayor, and then they run between them. To try to remember these two identical rooms where you are, there’s eight doors, and trying to remember which door needs to be open, closed, locked – because they do lock and it’s important – that took a lot of time,” explained director J. Sean Elliott.

The result is a whole lot of fun for the audience. Kristen Peace plays Billie Dwyer, which involves plenty of physical comedy like crawling on the floor and getting tied up. He says she does a fantastic job of bringing the funny. Eric Sheridan is played by David Leyshon, Ted Simonett takes the role of Mayor Meekly and Ralph Small is Todd, the professional hitman.

If you were fortunate to see Drayton’s production of Anything Goes earlier this year you’ll recognize two of the lead roles. Jayme Armstrong plays Karen Brown and Keith Savage is Agent Frank, the town hall’s head of security.

Valerie Boyle reprises her role as the mayor’s wife, Mary Meekly, a character she first portrayed in 2015 for Stage West’s production of Unnecessary Farce in Calgary. Elliott also directed that production.

“This is an absolutely fantastic made-to-order part for Jayme and I pursued her with Alex [Mustakas] and worked hard to get her. And she really wanted to do it because she’s mostly doing musicals,” Elliott said.

This gives her the chance to rest her voice a bit and be part of a well-written contemporary American farce, something that’s hard to come by these days, he adds.

“And Keith is just a national treasure. He is such a pro and his physical energy is unlike anybody I’ve ever known. He’s not 25 and in this play he’s jumping over beds, he’s rolling over things, it’s incredible,” Elliott said.

Elliott offered to modify some of the actions for him but Savage insisted on doing it all because he loves it, regardless of age.

He says the whole cast has been a pleasure to work with because they understand comedy, and he assures audiences it’ll be a treat to watch. When the whole theatre is howling with laughter, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

“The culture right now is everybody’s really into musicals and I also work in musicals, I am obsessed with musicals but you don’t see as many plays anymore, it’s mostly musicals. This is a chance to go see a great play that is just a superb cast and I just can’t recommend it highly enough on the silliness scale,” Elliott said.

The play premiered in 2006 and has been produced more than 200 times all over the world since then. The New York playwright is also an actor and is on Broadway right now with Finding Neverland.

It’s a show Elliott is particularly proud of and he’s looking forward to seeing it run at Dunfield Theatre for the next three weeks.

“It really is one of the most delightful comedies that’s going right now and if you enjoy putting your brain in neutral and just going on a ride, it’s the play for  you. I love it. It’s the kind of thing I work on and the audiences just go crazy; they’re just restless by the end, and they should be. It should be like you get on a ride at Canada’s Wonderland and get off the other end and go ‘phew, oh my goodness,’ and that’s what this is like,” Elliott said.

Unnecessary Farce runs Aug. 17 to Sept. 4 at Dunfield Theatre Cambridge. Regular performance tickets are $44 for adults; and $26 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances scheduled before the official opening and groups of 20 or more are $36. Tickets are available in person at the theatre, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the box office at (519) 621-8000 or toll free at 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

Whitney Neilson
Whitney Neilsonhttp://www.observerxtra.com
Whitney Neilson is a photo journalist for The Observer.

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