TBT farce a ‘necessary’ pick for some good laughs

With Thunder Bay Theatre’s current production, “Unnecessary Farce,” billed as a show of two cops, three crooks and eight doors, it begged the question of how TBT could pull off that many functioning doors on a relatively small-sized stage.

In hindsight, there was nothing to worry about. This comical bedroom farce not only supplied the pre-requisite number of doors, but Technical Director Joe Simpson designed the set to look like two cheap, adjacent motel rooms with identical furnishings.

The seven-member cast also made extremely good use of the doors to move the zany plot along. The various characters used said doors to force witnesses into closets, to drag the incapacitated into bathrooms, to knock a hitman unconscious, and as expected with a farce, to create a general atmosphere of mistaken identities and fast-paced movement.

TBT Artistic Director Kevin Reams chose to give the public a full season of comedies this spring, and his latest offering definitely had the audience in stitches over its madcap pace and plot. To start things off, rookie Officer Billie Dwyer (Nickie Hilton) and veteran Detective Eric Sheridan (Curtis Brown) are setting up a sting operation in one of the motel rooms. Bumbling and incompetent best describe their efforts. These two have bugged the other motel room where the town mayor (David Usher) plans to meet with their star witness, a supposedly straight-laced accountant (Puja Tolton) with evidence of large-scale embezzlement.

From there, it all descends into a lot of bed hopping, gun waving and door slamming, with a menacing visit from a Scottish hitman tossed in for good measure. A surprise twist at the end wraps it all up, but not before the audience is presented with plenty of reasons to laugh.

Hilton and Tolton, as usual, turn in strong performances. Hilton’s overly enthusiastic, doughnut-munching Officer Billie provides one of the best sight gags of the whole show when, bound and gagged, she attempts to escape an empty motel room.

Tolton’s fun portrayal of accountant Karen Brown finds her frequently in compromising positions with the detective, with Agent Frank (Colin Marshall) of Town Hall security detail and even with Mayor Meekly. Though her character starts out clad in a smart-looking business suit, for all manner of reasons, she keeps shedding her clothes right down to her undies.

Marshall does a nice job as a security guard with a lot of insecurity. His character appears full of bravado when nothing is wrong and then prepares to die in disgrace and anguish at the whiff of danger. Likewise, Nick Hartman thoroughly amuses as the dreaded hitman for the Scottish syndicate who uses an unconventional choice of weapon to take down his targets. Hartman’s angry Todd also employs a thick Highland brogue and when he gets really fired up, there’s no telling what he’s saying unless you’re Officer Billie and well-versed in Scottish gibberish.

Usher as the mayor and Julie Meyers as his wife, Mary Meekly, both are minor characters but they always are fun to have on any stage. Mostly, their two characters have a goofy knack for walking in at the wrong time, then turning around leaving again.

As the show’s director, Reams exhibited some fine air traffic controller tendencies with all his split-second, to-and-fro shuffling of characters required to pull “Unnecessary Farce” off in true farcical fashion.

Remaining performance of the show are Thursdays through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

To make reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267.