Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Funny Money"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"Funny Money

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The fourth show of The Players 94th season is Ray Cooney's British farce, "Funny Money". Henry Perkins, a mild mannered CPA, accidently picks up the wrong briefcase, one full of money. Henry assumes it is illegal cash and decides to keep it. He books two one-way fares to Barcelona. His confused wife 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 show directed by David Epstein, a member of The Players for 35 years.

Heading this cast as Henry Perkins is the talented, Brian Ellsworth. His British accent is flawless as is his comic timing, double takes and facial expressions. Brian acts beautifully with his fellow cast members and the exchanging of the wrong briefcase twice in this show has to be seen to be believed. His confused and drunken wife,Jean, is played by veteran actress, Ellen Barnes Selya. Her drunken routine is hilarious as she keeps downing glass after glass of brandy. Ellen has several funny bits but the one where she tries to get her arms in the sleeves of her raincoat is a standout one. The couples friends, Vic and Betty are played by Tom DiMaggio and Marcia Layden. Tom does a great job as the befuddled husband continuely trying to follow Henry's machinations on changing everyone's name constantly and creating imaginary in-laws at the drop of a hat. Marcia is splendid as Betty who enjoys the exciting antics of the evening because it is better than owning a satellite dish. Betty wants to go to Spain with Henry so they will swap mates with each other, spicing up her dull life. Marcia also has the funniest line in this show. (Mr. Cooney always seems to give his characters, a cat in his shows and this one is no exception.) When the couples are ready to and can't locate Pussy, the cat, Betty grows impatient with Henry, exclaiming, "You'll get a lot of pussy in Barcelona." Laughter burst forth after that line and it is amazing how everyone on stage kept a straight face.< P> There are four other crazy characters involved in this show. Walter Cotter plays the money grubbing, crooked detective, Davenport. He blackmails Henry into paying him off all night long when he pretends to be his brother and dropping the solicitation chages, too. The scene under the blanket on the sofa is another hilarious device in the show and different people end up there all the time trying to keep the briefcase full of money hidden. The other detective, Slater, is played by Rick Bagley who makes his debut at Players but is no stranger to the theatre scene. Rick plays the patient copper who finally explodes at the insanity around him.He handles his scenes like the true pro he is. The exasperated cabdriver, Bill is wonderfully played by Jim Brown. Jim does a super British accent and gives the role the cheekiness it needs in his debut performance at Players. Joel Gluck rounds out the cast as the mysterious passer-by with a strange accent, but is he really as innocent as he seems? You have to see the show to unravel all the twists and turns. So be sure to call Lydia to join this club in their 94th season. You won't be disappointed.

"Funny Money" (15 - 23 March)
THE PLAYERS
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 273-0590

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