John Payonk, Cary Wiger, J.R. Stuart, Bill Hanna; and in front: Tina Jo Wallace & Rita Thomas in Funny Money. Photo courtesy Derby Dinner Playhouse.
By Ray Cooney
Directed by Jim Hesselman
Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2018, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Derby Dinner Playhouse is nothing if not consistent, knowing what their audience wants and giving it to them every time. That would explain why we are getting another Ray Cooney door-slammer, less than a year after the last one (Run For Your Wife) from the same director and several of the same cast! There really does seem to be a level of sameness creeping in over the Playhouse’s choices of late, and Cooney’s plays (and a lot of other like-minded playwrights in DDP’s roster) have plots that run together. I’m probably being too harsh, though, because the opening night audience I attended was very receptive and just ate it up.
This latest romp involves your typical British breadwinner Henry Perkins (Cary Wiger) and his set-in-her-ways wife, Jean (Rita Thomas), on an evening that is supposed to bring no more excitement than a birthday dinner with their friends Betty (Tina Jo Wallace) and Vic (John Payonk). However, circumstances in a farce being what they are plans change when Henry accidentally switches briefcases and finds himself holding a fortune in cash. Police, taxi drivers, and criminals all come crashing in and out of the story in the chaos that ensues. It’s an exhausting series of diversions, lies, mistaken identities, and plot twists that thankfully delivers on the laughs, thanks to an energetic cast and tight direction by Jim Hesselman.
Wiger gives another variation on characters he’s played many times before, but he suits the role of the increasingly exasperated Henry and is always a joy to watch. This is Thomas’s show, however, and the talented actress steals every scene she’s in as the put-upon Jean; her increasing inebriation over the course of the show definitely provides the most sidesplitting fun of the whole evening. J.R. Stuart and Zachary Burrell also provide some fun moments as two detectives working at markedly different agendas, and Hanna is a delight as a clueless cab driver. The rest of the cast also fined their moments to shine.
As usual, the technical aspects of the show are as good as we’ve come to expect from the Playhouse, especially when it comes to Ron Riall’s detailed set, successfully conveying a cottage in a British village circa 1994. Andrew Duff’s lighting and David Nelson’s sound designs nicely enhance it, and Sharon Murray Harrah’s costume designs provide nice period detail.
Even if this type of show is becoming a bit overdone at the Playhouse of late, this is one of the better entries in the genre, and I can’t argue with the talent involved. After all, live theater is where these door-slamming farces are best suited, and this is a fun way to spend these cold January evenings!
Starring Zachary Burrell, Timm Charlton, Bill Hanna, John Payonk, J.R. Stuart, Rita Thomas, Tina Jo Wallace, and Cary Wiger.
January 10 – February 18, 2018
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.