FRONT ROW CENTER

By Michael Warren

Cash On Delivery
By Michael Cooney
Directed by Bob Coull

 

front-rowCash On Delivery is a quintessential British farce by Michael Cooney, who is the son of farce-master Ray Cooney, author of Run For Your Wife and its sequel Caught In The Net seen here on Lakeside four years ago. So we are in good hands, and the play does not disappoint. In the first Act, the play takes a while to get off the ground – but then the second Act is loaded with misunderstandings, confusion and loony characters who appear and disappear through doors as if by magic.

An experienced cast keeps the action going with tremendous pace. Landlord “Eric Swan” (Zane Pumiglia) is defrauding the Social Services by claiming various disabilities for former and fictitious boarders. When an inspector “Mr Jenkins” (Jim Donnelly) turns up, Eric is obliged to become the boarder and then gets his real boarder “Norman” (played by Ken Yakiwchuk) – who by the way is now officially dead – to act as the landlord. Chaos is further confounded when Eric’s wife “Linda” (Shirley Appelbaum) discovers corsets and women’s clothing – stolen from Social Services by Eric’s “Uncle George” (Marty Davis) – and concludes that Eric is into cross-dressing. She brings in a counselor “Dr Chapman” (Jack Vanesko) who attempts therapy but is constantly interrupted and is sternly told to sit down. The situation is hilarious and getting more out of control by the minute – by now the audience is falling around with laughter as other characters arrive on the scene.

Social Services are of course sweet and helpful, and burden Eric with unwanted benefits – Amy Friend shows up as “Sally” the bereavement counselor, who wants to “lay Norman” in the bedroom. And then there’s the undertaker “Mr Forbright” – hilariously played with great seriousness by Pierre Blackburn. Finally the formidable “Ms Cowper” of Social Services (Chris L’Ecluse) appears and is drawn into the general confusion. Eric develops a twitch and a nasty case of Tourette’s syndrome, much to Ms Cowper’s dismay. It’s like watching an episode of the Benny Hill show on speed. I should also mention the charming Daphne Peerless, who adds to the general hysteria as Norman’s fiancée “Brenda” – naturally she is upset to learn that he is already married, and surprised by his appearance in women’s clothing. He is supposed to be someone – Mrs Swan – by now we’ve all lost track of who is supposed to be dead or alive, or someone’s long-lost brother (or sister or stepmother).

All of the actors do a tremendous job, and deliver their lines with impeccable timing. I really enjoyed this play, and Bob Coull deserves great credit for bringing it successfully to the Lakeside stage. It’s not easy to do farce, because the actors have to be “in the play” while maintaining terrific pace in the most absurd situations. Backstage Kathleen Neal was Stage Manager and Shirley Appelbaum was Assistant Director. Shirley capably took over at short notice as Linda because of the unfortunate illness of Gerry Marttila. I am happy to report that Gerry is back home and recovering from an emergency appendectomy.

So Season 45 ends on an upbeat note with a hilarious farce. Thank you to all who contributed to this year’s productions, in acting, directing, set design and construction, sound system, costumes, makeup and all the elements required to put on these plays. It is no small undertaking and it takes all the players, onstage and backstage, to make it a success. Now I sign off for the summer and look forward to Season 46, which opens in October with Our Lady of the Tortilla.

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