Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The title Unnecessary Farce is a little inaccurate. It's a farce, for sure, but it's not completely unnecessary. It has a purpose, which is to make us laugh and take our minds off everything else for a couple hours, and in this it succeeds. Paul Slade Smith, a writer hitherto unknown to me, has crafted a clever script that adheres to the classic tropes of farce: a far-fetched plot, mistaken identities, double entendres, and lots of doors.
How do you fit eight doors into one play? You set the play in adjoining rooms of a motel, with communicating doors between them. Then in each room you have the doors to the hallway, the closet, and the bathroom. Set designer Pete Parkin and the construction crew are to be commended for the symmetrical set. It's not easy to hang a door.
The premise is that one of the rooms is occupied by two police officers on a stakeout. Sixteen million dollars is missing from the city coffers. In order to find out if the mayor is guilty of the crime, a sting operation has been arranged: in a neighboring motel room, the mayor is to meet with the new accountant who discovered the embezzlement. A video camera has been set up to film the encounter. The cops are watching the video feed in their room, ready to jump in and arrest the mayor when they get the dirt on him.
Of course, nothing goes as planned, almost everybody is incompetent, and there are some wild curves in the plot, so it's better not to reveal anything more. There are plenty of opportunities for physical comedy, some of them a little perilous. If this were an Equity house, I'm sure they would have had a fight coordinator and an intimacy coach, but this is community theater and director Nancy Sellin and the very game cast do perfectly well on their own. Their timing is spot-on and the stunt work is perfectly executed. This is especially remarkable because during rehearsals three of the cast members tested positive for COVID, so some rehearsing had to be done by Zoom, and one member of the cast joined at almost the last minute (I couldn't even tell who it was).
There are a couple faces new to me, and I'm looking forward to seeing them do more local theater: Myles Hughes, recently arrived from Florida, is hilarious as the mayor's security detail; and Lianne Walk is completely winning as the rookie cop. Eric John Werner does a good job as the (supposedly) more experienced officer, and Sarah Kesselring is fine as the accountant. Lewis Hauser as the mayor and Stephanie Jones as his wife both have lots of stage credits, and it's fun to watch them at work here. Antonio William Trigo III, who usually is the front of house manager for The Adobe Theater and gives the most entertaining curtain speeches in town, gets a chance to shine here as the ... well, I can't say without giving away too much.
I also must give credit to costume designer Rhonda Backinoff, especially for the men's boxer shorts, to Nina Dorrance for props, to Caedmon Holland and Shannon Flynn for sound design, to technical director Shannon Flynn; and to Caedmon Holland for stage managing. There must be a lot going on backstage that the audience doesn't see or hear, which is as it should be. Georgia Athearn is the production coordinator.
We have had a hot summer so far in New Mexico, and this show is the refreshing break we need right now. I laughed a lot, which is a high recommendation.
Unnecessary Farce runs through July 3, 2022, at the Adobe Theater, 9813 4th Street NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets $17 to $20. There is a pay-what-you-want performance on Thursday, June 30 at 7:30. For tickets and information, please visit adobetheater.org.