March 20, 2019

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Playful farce more nice than naughty

Clothes come off, but everyone gets in on the fun

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Tom Keenan and Heather Russell during a dress rehearsal for <em>Unnecessary Farce.</em></p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tom Keenan and Heather Russell during a dress rehearsal for Unnecessary Farce.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/3/2016 (1083 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Civic politics is often described with the term “farce.”

Paul Slade Smith’s comedy Unnecessary Farce seals the connection with a tale of a mayor suspected of embezzling city funds and a sting operation that pits two bumbling cops against the mayor’s loyal lieutenant, with the mayor’s wife, a clothing-challenged accountant and a Scottish hitman thrown into the mix.

American playwright Smith set the play in two adjoining motel rooms in a non-specific “big town/small city.” Director Steven Schipper has “set it very locally,” says actor Paul Essiembre, who plays Agent Frank.

“His job is to protect the mayor at all costs,” Essiembre says.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/3/2016 (1083 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Civic politics is often described with the term "farce."

Paul Slade Smith’s comedy Unnecessary Farce seals the connection with a tale of a mayor suspected of embezzling city funds and a sting operation that pits two bumbling cops against the mayor’s loyal lieutenant, with the mayor’s wife, a clothing-challenged accountant and a Scottish hitman thrown into the mix.

American playwright Smith set the play in two adjoining motel rooms in a non-specific "big town/small city." Director Steven Schipper has "set it very locally," says actor Paul Essiembre, who plays Agent Frank.

"His job is to protect the mayor at all costs," Essiembre says.

If the subject of misappropriated city funds is all too dismayingly real, the play puts a playful spin on it.

"It lives up to its name," Essiembre says. "It serves no other purpose than to make us laugh."

True to the form of the 20th-century sex farce, the comedy has lots of door-slamming and precisely timed entrances and exits. It also has an element of naughty semi-nudity with characters being caught in their underwear in a series of embarrassing situations. But the playwright somehow keeps that action from being gratuitous, Essiembre says.

"Our contemporary ear is very sensitive to a lot of these issues, a lot more sensitive than it would have been 20 years ago," says the New Brunswick-born actor.

"So I could see how it might be a more difficult thing to balance in a different farce, in a different play," he says. "But in this one, I think the playwright has done a very good job of making it part of the tickle factor. It’s not titillation so much as embarrassment and tickling. Someone’s in their underwear! Oops!"

That aspect of the play was certainly a consideration for Winnipeg actor Ava Darrach-Gagnon, a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s theatre program. (You may have seen her assisting escape artist Dean Gunnarson in the CityTV series Escape or Die.)

Darrach-Gagnon plays the character who kicks the plot into action. "Karen Brown is a very hard-working accountant who has found some problems with the budget for town hall and has noticed a lot of missing money," she says. "She has notified the police and is working with two cops in a sting investigation to try to get the mayor to confess he’s embezzled $16 million."

As it turns out, Karen may be working too closely with the police. "Karen falls for one of the cops and they have a passionate night of talking… she’s just trying to tame the sexual beast that has awoken within her," Darrach-Gagnon says.

"This is my first experience working in a professional company of this calibre and it’s also my first time taking some clothes off onstage," she says.

"There’s a little bit of anxiety about that, but within the show, I truly believe Paul Slade Smith does such a good job finding a reason behind everything.

"It’s not sexy just to be sexy," she says. "It brings light to sex in a fun and easygoing way. It’s a woman who’s really wanting to get it on with someone and can’t — that’s just tough for anyone.

"And the fun thing is that everyone’s taking their clothes off," she says. "There’s definitely an equality in it."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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