Too Many Cooks

By Marcia Kash & Douglas E. Hughes
Directed by Robert More
VPP Production, Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
July 25 – August 12, 2006
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Too Many Cooks too much farce

Writers Marcia Kash and Douglas Hughes have again put together an all-Canadian farce, currently being staged at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. Kash & Hughes are authors of the very popular Who’s Under Where?, the story of Vancouver lingerie makers, which is generally thought to be Canada’s best farce.

Director Robert Moore knows that the VPP audience loves a farce, so building on the success of last year’s Confessions of a Dirty Blonde, most of the cast is back in Too Many Cooks. It’s the story of a Niagara Falls restaurant owner who unwittingly gets mixed up with gangsters who are illegally selling booze during prohibition.

The play has all the elements of a British farce – lies told to cover up more lies, strange disguises and mistaken identities. The only thing it lacks is slamming doors – because it has swinging doors instead.

The set is a very good 1930’s Art Deco lobby in an upscale restaurant, with swinging doors to the kitchen on the right, and swinging doors to the dining room on the left. Naturally, one character comes in one door, while another goes out the other side without seeing each other. Without these carefully crafted doors, along with a basement door, front door, closet and staircase, this play could not be staged. All of the comedy hinges (pardon the pun) on these doors, with the many characters coming and going.

Michael Lamport is excellent as restaurateur Irving Bubbalowe. You’ll remember him as the hilarious Robin Williams-like Bellhop in last year’s farce. Paul Brown, the master of the farce, is hilarious as Shirley, the gangster with the feminine name, which demands the old joke, “Surely, you can’t be serious?”.

Jonathan Ellul shows excellent comedic timing and masters many accents, as the hapless Frank Plunkett. David Kirby is the Mountie in the red serge, Constable Effing. And yes, references to his surname cause many chuckles. Tough guy Noodles Feghetti (Terry Barna), innocent daughter Honey (Susie Burnett), rum-runner Mickey McCall (Sam Owen) and immigration officer Veronica Snook (Noran Sheehan) all have a talent for zany comedy. On occasion, cast members even broke each other up. I’m not sure if it was planned or accidental, but what the heck, it was funny.

The only concern was that this cast is so enthusiastic that at times they come on a little too strong. The yelling was a little too loud and the acting went a little too far over the top. I know it’s a farce and over-the-top is usually acceptable, but there must be at least a tiny element of believability to create the humour. But if you like farces, you’ll enjoy this one.

Too Many Cooks continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until August 12. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or (519) 882-1221 for tickets.

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