Review by Danny Gaisin
A couple of decades ago, British playwright Ray Cooney wrote a farcical comedy about a windfall acquisition of a mobster’s buy-in for a cache of drugs. The finder is a mild-mannered wimp named Henry Perkins who decides that this is a life-changer and that he’ll take resisting wife Jean, and run away to Barcelona. Two family friends; a crooked cop; impatient cabbie and a homicide detective enter into the equation necessitating the familiar ‘What a tangled web we weave’ scenario with all the requisite verbal gymnastics the genre entails.
Convoluted name and relationship designations abound making the scenario of Brandon Thomas’s “Charley’s Aunt” plot of a century earlier seems almost feasible in comparison.
Historically, West End Studio Theatre’s eclectic play selections run the gamut of dramatic to comedy, to musical as well as the occasional farce (Is that you, Norman?). Individually, they are presented with care, detail and professionalism. But obviously, each category impacts on audiences differently. While ‘hamminess’ is inexcusable during a drama, overacting is expected in a farce and ‘Funny Money’ is no exception. The plot-line is telegraphed from the opening scene, and the actors’ responses are likewise anticipated. Under the co-directorship of Jeff Morrison & Yo Mustafa the shenanigans, while almost irritatingly foreseeable, still keep the audience attentive and almost participatory in trying to advise the actors what to do or especially NOT DO. ”Put down the bottle”; “hang on to the briefcase”; ‘Don’t answer the phone’ all seem on the tip of one’s tongue.
The most physically demanding role is that of Mike Mitton whose Henry must create the on-going mis-introductions, as well as constantly perambulate from one on-stage situation to another and then to a third. The set necessitates numerous doors and stage egress/exits all of which persistently require the presence of Mitton…exhausting; even for the viewers. Kathy Hyde-Nagel portrays his wife and until she’s deep into the Gilbey’s, her resistance and overacting – jars. The birthday guests are Greg Proctor & Ilene Elkaim whose consummate senses of comedic timing make them the most credible. Elkaim is especially noteworthy as she understates a role that almost demands histrionics.
The support roles of the Halton cop (Rod McTaggart); Armin Rahmani as the cabbie, and a Toronto detective played by Heather Cunningham are rather underwritten; especially the latter. Sgt. Slater carries a briefcase rather than a purse (where does she secrete her Glock?) and exhibits none of the charismatic intimidation of a policeman reaching her official rank. Post-curtain, I even asked why she doesn’t cuff the wife and slam her into the Squad car! McTaggart and Rahmani both give their portrayals full measure and possessing mobile faces are able to underscore their individual situations and dialogue moments.
“FUNNY MONEY” is at the Oakville Centre until October 23rd, and if absurd travesty (farce) is your métier, WEST has staged something worthwhile seeing and enjoying.
Cast, crew (especially stage managing) and the artistic team have all contributed full measure…a WEST tradition.