By John Quinn, EncoreMichigan
“The Great American Sex Farce!” has a second act monologue in which Benni of Boca (Jann Hight) advises, “You gotta have a gimmick.” Farce is full of gimmicks, including over-the-top characters, madcap pacing, improbable plots and multiple doors that open and close with razor-sharp timing.
The farce in question opens the 19th season at Broadway Onstage Live Theatre. Playwright Dennis Wickline has revived his 1994 hit and given the old girl a tune-up for the 21st century. Sadly, she’s not yet firing on all cylinders.
The plot is suitably improbable. Benni of Boca is in the lingerie business, and is transferring her $13 million account to a new advertising firm. Little does adman Miles Forester (Charles Davis) know her ultimate goal: Benni is launching a line of patriot-inspired exotic wear for men and women while gearing up a run for the White House. Her platform is “Nakedness for Freedom!”
Miles is doubly nonplussed because his fiancee, Bunny Bingo (Kelly Kucharski), adores the underwear and insists the couple be married in selections from Benni’s wedding wear. That means no tuxes and gowns, just thongs and bustiers. Since Bunny’s dad, Arvide (Peter Cucinella), owns the firm, Miles may have no choice but to agree.
The arrival of a new ad exec, Falan Sweetwater (Sharron Nelson), thickens the plot – Falan has a secret. Can the self-absorbed photographer Captain “Bangs” (John Arden McClure) discover the truth before the firm makes a terrible error in marketing?
“The Great American Sex Farce!” has a suitable cast of zany characters – what it lacks is an anchor in the sea of madness. Clearly this would be receptionist Sylvia Masterson, played by Elizabeth Rager. At her desk stage center, Sylvia is the rock of Gibraltar compared to the restless eccentrics swirling around her. The character is winning and nicely defined; it should come as no surprise that Silvia has a secret, too – she loves Miles. While Rager ably plays Silvia’s emotional turns, what is lacking is the sense that she’s much wiser than her compatriots and can see the insanity for what it is.
As of opening night, Christopher Oakley’s cast is not comfortable with the pacing and timing crucial for great farce. This should improve during the run of the show.
Are you wondering if a show with the titillating title of “The Great American Sex Farce!” is a show for you? It is a little risque; clearly there are shenanigans going on behind those closed doors. But farce has more gimmicks up its non-existent sleeve – bawdy humor and a happy ending. What more can one ask?
John Quinn reviews local theater productions for http://www.EncoreMichigan.com, the state’s most comprehensive resource for news and information about Michigan’s professional theaters. Follow them on Facebook @EncoreMichigan.com.