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'Unnecessary Farce' brings fast moving comedy to audience's delight

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"Unncessary Farce" at Paradise Playhouse and Event Center

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Prepare for some unsavory, but funny characters; some cops that barely made the police force; an accountant in need of a boyfriend; a mayor suspected of embezzling 16 million dollars; a Scottish clan of murders; a hidden video camera; a security agent with an agenda that remains questionable–at best; and a not-so-sweet mayor’s wife–all and out of two adjoining room with eight doors, and you get the framework for Paradise Playhouse’s “Unnecessary Farce.”

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Paradise Playhouse Dinner Theatre & Events Center unveiled its current show “Unnecessary Farce,” on March 28 to a larger than expected crowd with the show continuing for the next three weekends until April 12, according to Andy Tyhurst, executive artistic director.

“Unnecessary Farce,” by Paul Slade Smith brings together a group of two cops, three crooks, eight doors and lots of comedy action, Tyhurst said. According to information from Tyhurst, the play takes place in an economy mote room where a sting operation awaits to record and catch a shady mayor, his female accountant while police wait in an adjoining room. But, of course, something goes wrong–terribly wrong. There seems to be confusion. Who is occupying which room? Who is being videotaped? Who is taking the money? Who hired a hit man? And, why does the accountant keeps taking off her clothes?

Leah Johnson directs her cast of Kansas City actors, Tom Westervelt, Dawn Stevenson, Diane Bulan, Patrick Simpson, Michael Blodgett, Larry Tesar, Sharon Powell. Johnson moves the cast through their paces and helped each create characters for “Unnecessary Farce” that keep audiences laughing at the buffoonery and gross incompetence of the characters.

“Unnecessary Farce” marks Artistic Director, Tyhurst’s first show in his new position.

“We opened March 21, and it was very strong by box office receipts for an opening weekend and the show runs three more weekends,” Tyhurst said. I am encouraged. There was a lot of energy all weekend. It was really vibrant over the weekend with lots of smiles.”

Kansas City actress, Diane Bulan, makes her Paradise Playhouse debut on our stage. She is magnificent and hilarious in her role of Karen, Tyhurst said. Another note, Sharon Powell who plays the Mayor's wife is a retired elementary school principal and is running for City Council of Excelsior Springs.

"I am very proud of this cast, crew and director Leah Johnson” Tyhurst said. “This group has worked through mass amounts of transition here at Paradise and they have handled it all gracefully with tremendous professionalism which shows in their great performances."

Bulan is the strongest of the three actresses and keeps the pace moving. She provided the fodder for most of the conflict as an accountant in need of some sexual satisfaction. Her antics are funny and her facial expressions, comical. She’s at her best when she’s taking her clothes off and signaling for help via the hidden camera. Her misadventures in bed are also humorous.

And, for facial expressions, watch Agent Frank, Simpson. He’s funny from his first scene throughout the entirety of the show. He had great timing to go with his expressions. He really understands comedy. He draws most of the laughs in “Unnecessary Farce.” Some of his mannerisms are reminiscent of a Don Knotts character in this show.

Another highlight was Blodgett as Todd, the Scotsman with a brogue so thick a razor would not cut through it. He’s funny with his deadpan character delivery, and he gets lots of laughs with his physicality. Blodgett had the strongest stage presence of the men in the show, partly due to the character he portrayed and partly from his acting ability.

Westervelt is the bumbling cop that can’t seem to keep his pants on nor his hands off the accountant. His characterization of Eric Sheridan is funny from the opening scene. His attempt at recreating bagpipe music draws lots of laughs. He is not so incompetent as a Barney Fife, but, he’s awfully close.

Steverson is never so funny as she when her character translates the unintelligible speech of Todd, the Scotsman, when he’s angry. Her long speech is funny and helps cement her character in your memory.

As the mayor, Tesar navigates his way through a complex character that’s a whole lot smarter than he appears. His part is small, yet he is important to the plot and the resolution. He is the anchor a cast needs to make a comedy set-up really funny.

Another key figure to the show’s resolution, Powell, as the mayor’s wife brings some closure to the chaos with her scenes in Act II. Powell is a good balance for the two other actresses, and her scene with Steverson is really funny. She’s really kind of a “straight man” to the others, but in a farce, no real “straight man” exists.

The set for the show is strong and well conceived. Even though the stage is large, creating a workable set with eight entrances would be tricky, to say the least. An invisible wall helps create the notion that the audience sees fully into two adjoining rooms of an economy motel room.

The only perceived weakness is that the show needed more speed for a farce. Speed equals more laughs. With all those doors, they needed to swing faster. Timing in a farce is paramount. As one door swings open, another needs to swing shut. The action needs to keep the cast moving and the audience guessing which door opens next. A faster pace would have made “Unnecessary Farce” even more comical.

Overall, the show is funny and entertaining. It’s appropriate for most ages. A few strong words, very few, may not be appropriate for the very young, but with TV and current movies, kids have heard those words before. The few “adult words” in the show will not ruin them for life.

“Unnecessary Farce,” runs Mar 21-Apr 12 with Fri-Sat. curtain at 7:45p.m. Dinner begins at 6:15p.m.; Sunday curtain goes up at 1:30p.m. with dinner starting at noon. The buffet dinners are provided by The Golden Ox of Kansas City.

Cast members are: Tom Westervelt, as Eric; Dawn Stevenson, as Billie; Diane Bulan, as Karen; Patrick Simpson, as Agent Frank; Larry Tesar, as Mayor Meekly; Sharon Powell, as Mary Meekly, and Michael Blodgett, as Todd.

Paradise Playhouse and Event Center is one serendipity that Kansas City and surrounding towns need to both discover and experience. Even though many in the area have heard of The Elms hotel and spa, many have never ventured there for an escape. Paradise Playhouse offers good, family entertainment at a bargain price. Kansas City audiences who miss American Heartland Theater need to take note and learn of Paradise Playhouse and its offerings.

As one of the changes to the Paradise Playhouse, Tyhurst announced that the venue will now host an Industry Night. The first ever Industry Night comes on April 10.

Dinner and show tickets are: $30 to $32 at Paradise Playhouse Dinner Theatre, 101 Spring St, Excelsior Springs, MO For information, call the box office (816) 630-3333, or, go to the website: www.paradiseplayhouse.org.

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