The producers at the New Theatre possess the remarkable ability to reconstitute a show they’ve done before and make it feel fresh again.
Case in point: “Out of Order,” a slamming-door farce set against the backdrop of Washington politics in which a U.S. senator plans a romantic escape with a secretary from the opposing party but is frustrated at every turn by unforeseen complications.
The New Theatre staged this show in 2007 with many of the same actors, including star Gary Sandy, but this outing exhibits impeccable split-second timing and comes off as a kind of festival of double-takes.
Playwright Ray Cooney is English and the original is set not in Washington but London with parliamentary politics as the backdrop. Director Joe R. Fox III adapted this version and the transfer to American idioms is virtually seamless.
The set-up involves a senator (Sandy), the majority whip from an unidentified party, arriving at a hotel suite for a carnal get-away with the young secretary (Emily Rogers) to the minority whip on the other side of the aisle. Each is married, and they’ve concocted what they believe to be clever cover stories. But when they discover the apparently lifeless body of a man (Jason Miller) they believe to be a burglar caught in the window, they go into panic mode. They stash the “body” in a closet and the senator calls for help from his key aide (Craig Benton).
Complicating the mix even more are an incompetent bellhop (Alan Tilson), the senator’s wife (Jennifer Mays), a sexy nurse (Leah Swank-Miller), a jealous husband (Ben Marten) and an exasperated hotel manager (James Wright). Lies beget more lies, forming a sort of vortex of deception as the increasingly desperate senator creates a succession of expedient “explanations” that are simply preposterous.
Set entirely in a hotel suite with a front door, a closet and an entrance to a bedroom, this is literally a slamming-door farce. Like other British farces, this one has its share of homophobic gags, but this cast is so good and the humor so well-executed that most audience members will be inclined to give its politically incorrect transgressions a pass.
Sandy handles the lead with smooth charisma and deadpan humor. Craig Benton is at his comic best as the aide with mother issues and a tendency to panic. Tilson appears to be having a fine time as the not-all-there bellhop. Mays exhibits her own command of comic timing as the senator’s wife. Marten finds levels of humor as the jealous husband. Miller contributes to some of the funniest physical comedy in the show as “the body.” Swank-Miller, a flaming redhead, makes a strong impression with her comedic skills as the nurse. And Wright, an actor we haven’t seen enough of lately, is perfectly cast as the huffy hotel manager.
Farce is a time-honored theatrical tradition and to see it performed well is always impressive. Frankly, no company in town executes this kind of material as successfully as the New Theatre.
“Out of Order” runs through Feb. 14 at the New Theatre, 9229 Foster, Overland Park. Call 913-649-7469 or visit www.newtheatre.com.