|Sign up for our FREE weekly newsletter|
Buy an Ad
By Judith Cookis-Rubens
It's not every day you accidentally grab the wrong briefcase and discover piles of cash inside, instead of paperwork and your half-eaten cheese and chutney sandwich.
That's what happens to wimpy London accountant Henry Perkins in "Funny Money," a rapid-fire farce by British playwright Ray Cooney, now playing at Tibbits Summer Theatre.
Instead of rushing home to his wife and a birthday dinner with friends, Henry stops at a pub to start scheming his way out of town before the owner of the illicit money can track him down. But his teetotaler wife, Jean, won't hear of it. She wants them to return the money right away – jetting off to Barcelona and leaving her familiar life behind isn't her cup of tea.
This being a farce, Henry's one bad decision gets the ball rolling, and soon the lies are piling up and the situations become even more ridiculous. Throw in two daft detectives, a befuddled taxi driver, eager-to-help friends, and one mysterious bad guy, and you've got the manic trappings of a madcap comedy.
Director Charles Burr has superbly cast his actors. Each one of the eight-member cast sails through the tongue-trippy dialogue, physical slapstick, and embarrassing hanky panky. Think "Three's Company" and Benny Hill with a touch of cop caper. If you're confused half-way through act one, don't worry; act two has plenty more detours. But the winding plot isn't really too important. It's just a set-up for laughs.
Chad Tallon plays ringleader Henry Perkins to perfection. His giddiness at finding the money turns believably into confusion and pride that he's actually getting away with it. He's at his best when straining to remember his many lies. Tallon's near-end recap of the whole plot is priceless.
Aisling Halpin deteriorates Jean from sober moral conscience to smashed housewife ready to do a wife swap with her husband's best friend. Watching drunk Jean try to don her coat in a hurry is endlessly entertaining.
The married couple gets great support from their friends Vic and Betty Johnson, well-played by T.J. Besler and Kiersten Vorheis. Vorheis' Betty adds big laughs as she shamelessly flirts with Henry and eagerly jumps into the drama. Besler makes a fine straight man as Vic, a puzzled guy who's always a few minutes behind.
Two very different, but equally dim police detectives, Davenport (James Bleecker) and Slater (Richard Baker), add to the general confusion. Bleecker makes a fine crooked cop who pockets cash for turning a blind eye to law-breaking and incestuous hanky panky; Baker's Sgt. Slater slowly simmers with irritation, then finally explodes at all the madness around him.
The laughs would be fewer without the considerable talents of Douglas P. Robbins playing exasperated taxi driver Bill, who keeps popping in and out of the house. Don't be fooled: he knows more than you think.
Burr expertly blocks this staging, and his actors never miss a step as they stride in and out of doors and up and down stairs. With several fast briefcase switches and tons of blanket hanky panky, and it's a wonder none of the actors ever broke character on opening night.
Only the first few moments of the opening scene seem oddly prolonged. After that, the pace is rightfully speeding to its frenetic conclusion.
Attention to detail is everywhere, from proper accents and body language to a '70s era burnt orange-and-yellow living room set.
Stage manager Mark R. Abrahamson, no doubt, got quite the workout behind the scenes.
This show is one that, although cleverly penned, would be disastrous if ill-timed or filled with lesser actors. Luckily, this cast and crew are more than up to the challenge of such a delightful misadventure.
SHOW DETAILS: "Funny Money" continues at Tibbits Summer Theatre, 14 S. Hanchett St., Coldwater, Wednesday-Saturday through Aug. 4. Tickets: $25-$27. For information: 517-278-6029 or www.tibbits.org.
Click here to comment on this review