The current show at the Newport Playhouse is Ray Cooney's British farce, "Funny Money". Henry Perkins, a mild mannered CPA, accidently picks up the wrong briefcase, one full of money, on his way home from work. Henry assumes it is illegal cash and decides to keep it. He books two one-way fares to Barcelona. His confused wife, Jean doesn't want to leave because their best friends, Vic and Betty are coming to celebrate Henry's birthday. The doorbell rings and a detective arrives to arrest Henry for soliciting at a local pub. It rings again and another detective arrives thinking Henry is dead because he found a dead body with Henry's briefcase in the Thames. Add the couples two friends, a cab driver and a mysterious visitor to the storyline and you have the ingredients for this crazy, madcap farce directed with a deft hand by Morgan Ban Draoi.
Although Cooney's Run For Your Wife is a better written show, this one also leaves the audience in stiches. Heading this cast is as Henry Perkins is the talented, Jim Whitaker. His British accent is flawless as is his comic timing, double takes and facial expressions. There are many funny bits which Morgan gives her actors including two briefcase switches, a lot of pretend hanky panky under a spread and a lot of brandy drinking. Jim plays well with his fellow actors and helps move this farce along. He is especially impressive with his long monologue at the end of the show. His confused and drunken wife, Jean is played brilliantly by Susan Massey. She returns to the playhouse after a ten year absence and doesn't miss a beat with her return. Susan plays the hysterical wife to the hilt, slowly getting drunker on brandy as the situation continually spirals out of control. She has many funny bits including getting her arm stuck in the wrong sleeve of her raincoat as well as collapsing in a heap on the floor. The daffy friends of this couple, Vic and Betty are played by Michael Johnson and Colette Schwoeri. Michael does a great job as the befuddled husband trying to follow Henry's machinations on changing everyone's name constantly, creating instant in-laws at the drop of a hat.(He also does the fine make up for the whole cast.) The scenes under the spread are hilarious as Michael's constant leg movements lead the detectives to the wrong conclusion of thinking there is hanky panky going on under there with the character of Henry. His double takes are very comical, too. Colette is hysterical as his bubbleheaded blonde wife who finds the antics at the Perkins and the excitement of the evening better than anything one could see on a satellite dish. She decides to go along with Henry to Spain, agreeing with his wife swapping idea. Betty is anxious to spice up her dull life and promises Henry a lot of thrills once they reach Barcelona. Things get funnier when Jean decides to join them so Henry will have both women at the same time. Colette shows great timing with her her lines. Although she is making her first appearance at the playhouse she has appeared in a touring company of "Noises Off" for two years and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
There are four other crazy, characters involved in this show. Nishan Lawton plays the money grubbinh, crooked detective, Davenport who blackmails Henry into paying him off all night long when he pretends to be his brother. He also will drop the solicitation charge for the right price, too. His scene under the spread with Mike and Jim is a hoot especially when he sticks his tongue out in a lacivious manner while they are trying to hide the briefcase from the other detective, Slater. John Moreau plays this totally confused and befuddled man with a low serious voice, which reminds you of Lurch from The Addams Family television show. His patience finally wears out during the last scene and Jim's long confession to him is another standout moment, too. The exasperated cabdriver, Billie is played wonderfully by Alicia Marie Rivera. She does a super British accent and gives the role the cheekiness and energy it needs. James Bagley, a student at URI makes his debut performance on the mainstage at the playhouse as a mysterious passer-by with a strange accent. Who is this mystery person and why is he there? To unravel this dilemma, you have to catch this crazy farce with all its twists and turns. A word of praise to stage manager Kendra Johnson who keeps things moving smoothly all night long, to set designer Russell Budlong who designed the beautiful set (his hard working wife, Mary manages the box office) and to the Head chef, Sue Raposa who makes the all the delicious buffet food including my personal favorite, the pot roast which just melts in your mouth. So for a wonderful dinner, theater and cabaret after the show be sure to go to Newport Playhouse which is celebrating its 15th year as a dinnertheatre next month. Congrats, Matt and Jonathan and crew on a job well done.