The resident Equity company's artistic director Kristine Thatcher will direct the world premiere of Paul Slade Smith's Unnecessary Farce, about two rookie cops and one crooked mayor "in two motel rooms with eight working doors."
The production will run Oct. 25-Nov. 19. Opening is Oct. 27. New York-based actor-playwright Smith, currently on tour with Wicked, will be in residence in Lansing Oct. 3-27 for rehearsals and the first week of performances. Smith's actress wife Erin Noel Grennan (who will appear in the comedy) were fixtures in the Chicago acting community until their recent move to New York City.
According to BoarsHead, Unnecessary Farce "is a comedy in the mode of traditional farce, with a contemporary, American spin. In a cheap motel room, an embezzling mayor is supposed to meet with his female accountant. In the room next door, two undercover cops are supposed to catch the meeting on videotape. But there's some confusion as to who's in which room. And who's being videotaped. And who's taken the money. And who's hired a hit man. And why the accountant keeps taking off her clothes."
The cast will feature Doug MacKechnie as Officer Eric Sheridan; Erin Noel Grennan as Officer Billie Dwyer; Kate Berry as Karen Brown (the accountant); Jim Wisniewski as Agent Frank (head of Town Hall security); David Girolmo as Todd (the hit man); Merrill Wyble as Mayor Meekly; and Carmen Decker as Mary Meekly (the mayor's wife).
The design team includes Shelley Barish (sets), Jeffrey Shepherd (lighting and sound) and Holly Speers (costumes). Smith penned Unnecessary Farce while touring in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. His first play, Hymn & Carol, debuted at the Shattered Globe Theatre in Chicago. As an actor, he is appearing as the Witch's Father in the first national tour of Wicked. He is the recipient of Chicago’s After Dark Award, and two Joseph Jefferson Award nominations.
Why a farce? Playwright Smith told Playbill.com, "Many of my greatest experiences as an actor — some of my most thrilling, memorable moments on stage — have been in farces: A Flea in Her Ear, Lend Me A Tenor…Ayckbourn's Norman Conquests and Taking Steps. Even a lot of the Shakespeare I've done is farce — Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Even Love's Labors' Lost has that wonderful, farcical scene that comes out of nowhere at the end of the play."
He continued, "A farce — a great farce — is so exhilarating, for both the actors, and the audience. They're so fun to play — to be absolutely serious and intent on some impossible quest, and to have the audience just so caught up, and enjoying every mistake that happens on the way. So that's what I set out to write. I love actors. I wanted to write a play that was as fun for the actors as the audience. That's a joy to play and to watch."
The play was developed on the road, but not in the way most plays are — not in traditional tryouts. "I was touring with The Phantom of the Opera when I started it, and so we would do readings with the Phantom cast in various hotel rooms — which was always perfect, because it takes place in hotel rooms," Smith said. "And then when I joined the Wicked cast, we did a reading in a hotel in Houston, with Carol Kane, and David Garrison, and Stephanie Block and Timothy Britain Parker, who were all in the tour. We also did a partially-staged reading at the Victory Gardens Theatre [in Chicago]."
How did Smith's play come to surface at BoarsHead in Lansing?
"I sent a copy of the play, unsolicited, to Kristine Thatcher, who had just become artistic director at BoarsHead," Smith said, adding that they had acted together in Chicago. "She set it aside at the time, and three months later pulled it out and read it, and called me up and told me she'd like to include it in the following season — the first season she was putting together as [BoarsHead's] artistic director. I'm thrilled she's directing it."
For information call the BoarsHead at (517) 484-7805 or visit www.boarshead.org.
For more information, visit www.unnecessaryfarce.com.