Familial Follies

Today should be the greatest day of Tom Kerwood’s life.  He and his wife, Linda, are a step away from adopting a baby.  Then Tom’s two brothers, Dick and Harry, decide to help.  Dick wants to share the proceeds of smuggled cigarettes to help support the child while Harry plots to get them a killer deal on a house by planting cadaver bits in the backyard.  Then the illegal immigrants show up.  Oh, and the police are expressing an interest in the goings-on at Tom’s house.  And time inexorably ticks forward to the appointment with the social worker, Mrs. Potter.  How will it all work out?  Find out in Tom, Dick, and Harry by Ray & Michael Cooney and playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

This is, without question, one of the funniest scripts I have ever had the privilege of watching.  The Cooneys’ script is a bit of comedic genius as it manages to fuse two very disparate types of comedy:  the farce and the traditional English comedy.  These seem like two styles that wouldn’t gel as one depends on action and hijinks while the other is driven by dialogue, but it works incredibly well.  The dialogue is so sharp and witty and carefully builds into the manic comedy and action.  The play is further enhanced by a director and cast who are clearly masters at the craft of comedy.

Trevor Belt’s direction is absolutely pluperfect.  The staging of the show is magnificent as it makes use of the entire stage with especially clever use of any and all types of orifices:  doors, windows, even hide a beds.  He knows how to find the funny in each and every line and dreamed up some incredibly funny bits as well.  He’s also led his thespians to grand performances.  Belt’s pacing is spot-on as it starts out careful and methodical and picks up speed as the insanity unfolds.  Cue pickups were also done on the turn of a dime.

The play is a wonderful little ensemble piece and some stellar performances come from Kat Walker-Hill who plays Tom’s very proper wife, Linda, who is capable of unleashing an extraordinarily violent temperament when pushed to the limit; Michael Davis as the persistent, if not overly bright, Constable Downs; and Alex Vinh who gives a scene stealing performance done mostly through pantomime as Andreas, an illegal immigrant searching for his daughter.

Luke Bridges nails the role of Tom Kerwood.  Bridges’ work is exemplary as he plays Tom as the reformed con artist turned happy family man thrown into the most bizarre of situations.  The role is unique as it requires someone who can play a straight man, but also be a good physical comic as well.  Bridges handles the straight man with ease with precise and potent facial and physical reactions to the lunacy swirling around him.  He’s also an impressive physical comic culminating in the most epic meltdown I’ve ever seen on the stage.  Bridges also has a good grip on the nuances of language as he often has to say the same phrases over and over, but alters his inflection each and every time to change the meaning and tone of the phrases.

Troy Bruchwalski is the epitome of a con artist as the middle brother, Dick Kerwood.  Bruchwalski’s Dick is always looking for the next score, but gives the sense that he is rarely, if ever, successful.  He is a charmer and he is likable, essential tools in the arsenal of a con artist.  However, his charm and likability are clearly part of Dick’s personality.  He’s not out to hurt people, just earn a little illicit money.

Bruchwalski is also a tremendous physical comic, best displayed when he tells his brother the story of the illegal immigrants by deciphering their sign language in one of the show’s best moments.  He also possesses a mighty operatic tenor used during a “rehearsal” for a fake reality TV show.

Kyle McCaffrey does some skillful work in his portrayal of the youngest brother, Harry Kerwood.  I was particularly impressed by the fact that he lifts personality traits from his “brothers” to form his own character.  McCaffrey’s Harry has the kindliness of Tom, but the scamming instincts of Dick.  Regrettably, his scamming instincts are less honed than Dick’s as he never thinks his cons completely through.  McCaffrey is also a good physical comic especially a prolonged bit with a hide a bed and his ability to be repeatedly shoved out of a window.

Star Turner provides a dandy less is more set with a simple, but comfortable house full of the doors needed for farce.  Jimmy O’Donnell’s costumes suit the play’s characters from the suburban wear of Tom and Linda to the cheap clothing of the immigrants.  Mariah Yantz’s props really add to the play, especially a wall clock that runs in real time which is crucial to the play’s time element.

This is what a comedy should be.  There’s no moral.  There aren’t any deep thoughts.  It’s just pure unmitigated fun from start to finish and is guaranteed to chase the blues away with a night of deep and hearty belly laughs.

Tom, Dick, and Harry plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 27.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on June 27, 30 and July 6, 11, 13, 21 and 2pm on June 23 and July 1, 3, 11, 13-15, 17, 22, 24-25, 27.  Tickets cost $31 for the main floor and $24 for the balcony.  For tickets, contact the box office at 660-385-2924 or visit www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

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