Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Farcical fun at Strawshop

Black Comedy (courtesy Strawberry Theatre Workshop)
Black Comedy
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Through September 20, 2014

Black Comedy is an hour long one-joke play taken to extremes. Written by Peter Shaffer, known for some very serious plays (Equus, Amadeus) in 1965, its major conceit uses theater lighting to create a trick: when characters flip the house light switch to the “on” position, the stage is dark, and when there is no light in their stage house, lights are fully up on stage. You can say that the play hopes to illuminate what people do in the dark, if you’d like. Really though, it’s an opportunity for stage actors to pratfall their hearts out!

Strawberry Theatre Workshop is doing the play and it is pretty clear that the actors are having a grand old time. A very accomplished troupe is providing the laughs under the direction of Kelly Kitchens. This short play of a very long joke takes place in the living room of Brindsley Miller (Richard Nguyen Sloniker) who is going to meet his fiancee’s (Brenda Joyner) father (Michael Patten) in a moment. Brin is an artist and he’s also expecting the great – and rich – Georg Bamberger, who could turn him into a very in-vogue artist if he likes what he sees.

To gussy up the place, Brin has borrowed furniture from his neighbor (Rob Burgess) hoping the neighbor will stay away just long enough not to notice. Alas, the farce couldn’t continue without dashing those hopes. To make matters even worse, there is a power outage in the building and no one has any candles. A distraught neighbor (Emily Chisholm) comes in for safety, and the electrician (MJ Sieber) is mistaken for Bamberger. As if that wasn’t enough confusion, Brin has an ex-girlfriend (Allison Strickland) who shows up at the wrong time wanting to rekindle romance.

The neat little apartment set by Greg Carter has everything the farce needs and the lighting by Andrew D. Smith and costumes by Ron Erickson create just the right tone. But the funniest technical element is the Beach Blanket Bingo-style music inserted by sound designer Evan Mosher.

Even though it’s funny, it still lingers a bit too long, but there are some wonderful moments of slapstick by Michael Patten, in particular. The character who seems to take smartest advantage of the situation is Allison Strickland’s Clea. Strickland’s glee at playing one character off another and her changing of dialects saves the latter half from wearing out its welcome entirely.

As theater explodes around here with multiple productions opening, if you’re too confused to know what to go to, and you really just want to laugh, this is a great fun time with little to worry your head over.

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