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ProArts’ ‘Out of Order’ works extremely well

Theater Review

British farce dates back to Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” and it has become a distinct genre. A poorly performed farce is the most painful theatrical offering to endure. Astute comic timing, quality accents and precision blocking is required. When it works, audiences gasp for air due to the rapid-fire comedy barrage. ProArts production of “Out of Order” at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei works extremely well.

Ray Cooney’s script is a risque, riotous, laugh spree that sails by quickly. After the expositional set up, “Out of Order” bursts with non-stop sight gags and one-liners at a frenzied pace. Richard Willey ( Dale Button) is a conservative Parliament minister intent upon having a discreet affair with the considerably younger Jane Worthington (Hana Valle-Webb), a secretary to the Labor Party leader. Luxury hotel room, check. Wife Pamela (Laura Kinne) out of town, check. Oysters and champagne ordered from room service, check. Dead body (Alan Muniz) on the balcony, check.

Hana Valle-Webb skillfully portrays Worthington as the voice of reason suggesting Willey call the police or the hotel manager (David Negaard). In reality, she could easily slip away from the hotel — the authorities could have been alerted and Willey would avoid being caught in a scandalous love nest — but then “Out of Order” would be three minutes long. Farce requires some one to make a stupid choice and Button impeccably plays the idiot that makes that choice. Richard Willey is the type of role few can champion, and Button gives one of his finest comedic performances. Willey soon enlists his political right-hand man, George Pidgen (Lou Young) to do the dirty work. The body is moved, lies mount and complications escalate. Pidgen’s loyalty to Willey becomes severely strained and Young perfectly depicts beleaguered.

Under David Belew’s sound direction, each added character and complication only makes “Out of Order” more enjoyable. Nothing about this production is disorderly. Richard Young as the waiter best amplifies this with calm, comical line delivery which is an essential contrast to the mayhem. Muniz as “the body” offers disciplined physical comedy, especially during a very funny Andrews Sisters gag. Shane Borge impresses with an outstanding Scottish accent as Jane’s enraged husband, Ronnie Worthington. Kinne as Pamela Willey surprises with unpredictable developments in act two, and Negaard’s hotel manager embodies normal reaction with believable exasperation. Kathy Worley frequently interrupts as a clueless Italian maid, and Marsi Smith as late-comer Gladys Foster officially turns the comedic volume of “Out of Order” up to 11.

Not to go unmentioned is a wonderful set by Ricky Jones, centered around the window which is integral to the plot. Be forewarned that “Out of Order” also features some cheeky, fleeting nudity in the style of Benny Hill.

* ProArts continues “Out of Order.” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through March 22 at the ProArts Playhouse. Tickets are $27. To purchase tickets call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com. “Out of Order” contains adult content.

— MICHAEL PULLIAM