A Feast of Farce

Collyn and Emerson are ad agents hoping to land an account for a chain of hotels owned by Samuel Briarwood.  To seal the deal Emerson invites Briarwood and his niece to dinner at her home.  However, her husband currently goes through a 9 month gestation and delivery every 24 hours due to a hypnotic suggestion.  To avoid the embarrassing situation, Emerson gets her husband out of the house and hires an actor to play him.  Unfortunately, Emerson’s husband comes home early.  You can find out the rest by watching Temporary Insanity, a world premiere production by Karen Schaeffer and currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

Schaeffer’s script has considerable promise.  I enjoy the play on the title as it’s a reference to Ted’s daily birthings as well as Emerson’s being a little crazed herself due to her freaking out about the dinner plus the general looniness of the situations that erupt throughout the night.  The farcical second act is everything a great high-energy comedy needs to be with slamming doors, mistaken identities, and new plans spun out on the fly.  But the first act moves a little too slowly and feels more like a traditional comedy as it spends its duration setting everything up to fall apart in the second act.

Jon Flower provides some pretty effective direction with the production.  His actors are always moving and animated so the show is never static.  He developed some great visual gags, though an extended kissing gag will be even funnier once we’re a little further past the pandemic so actors feel safe in actually kissing instead of using body language to simulate the passion.  Flower also guided his actors to solid & strong performances and I was especially impressed with the performances he got out of his two youngest cast members.

Some of the entertaining performances you’ll see during the night come from Michael Taylor-Stewart as Ted whose groans of “pregnancy” liven up the second act.  Sherry Josand Fletcher is also amusing as Emerson’s mother, Marie, who agrees to play the maid for dinner, but proves to be an atrocious actress with her godawful Cockney accent and constant curtseying.  Robert Wagner also provides some chuckles as Ted’s drunken friend who only wants to play with a puppy.

D. Laureen Pickle is a scream as Emerson.  She perfectly captures the frazzled ad agent desperate to land the deal with her cockeyed plans to have an elegant dinner that constantly blow up in her face.  Pickle’s Emerson gleefully guzzles wine from the bottle, cooks so poorly that she can’t even toss salad (or perhaps tosses too well, depending on one’s point of view), and always seems a half step away from dissolving into a giggling hyena ready for a straitjacket.

Heather Wilhelm shows a mastery of straight man comedy as Collyn.  She’s the more level headed of the two ad agents and is clearly the glue holding Emerson together.  She can easily toss off a deadpan zinger and then engage in a bit of soap opera style acting as she concocts a tale with the professional actor hired by Emerson to cover his amorous advances on another character.

Don Harris’ performance as Samuel Briarwood was the fuel that kicked this show into hyperdrive.  As Briarwood, Harris is a blustering, old-school businessman and his flustered and puzzled reactions to the strange situations swirling about him are always a treat to watch.  His romantic tension with Fletcher’s Marie provided some of the funniest moments in the show.

Joey Lorincz creates another classic BLT set with the elegant home of Ted and Emerson complete with the numerous doors needed for a proper farce.  Said set is also impeccably dressed by Jon Flower to give it the feel of a home.  Todd Uhrmacher’s costumes are right on the mark with the uniform of the pizza delivery boy, the evening gown and suit clothing the Briarwoods, and Marie’s karate gi and maid’s uniform just to name a few.

The energy of the show was at an incredibly low ebb for a great deal of the night which made it feel too naturalistic as opposed to the bombastic, over the top feel required for farce.  Once Harris blew onto the stage, the momentum starting kicking up to the proper level.  Cue pickups were also a bit off and tightening them up will help to boost the energy.

In the end, this show does provide an enjoyable evening of insanity.  It almost has the feeling of an extended episode of I Love Lucy with Emerson’s hare-brained schemes and everything getting tied up in a nice little bow as an end.  And who could ask for anything more?

Temporary Insanity runs at Bellevue Little Theatre through June 27. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $20 ($18 for seniors, $10 for students) and reservations can be made at http://bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com/reservations.html.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

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