Scene from “Unnecessary Farce” at the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

By Pat Launer

Eight slamming doors, four men in boxers and a woman repeatedly in her scanties. Two incompetent cops. A trayful of donuts. Two bagpipes, a pair of Scottish killers. And one hilarious show.

“Unnecessary Farce,” a zany comedy by actor/playwright Paul Slade Smith, premiered in 2006 in Michigan. Over the next seven years, it racked up more than 100 stagings around country.

Now making its West coast debut at North Coast Repertory Theatre, the silly, goofball show is perfectly cast and directed (by Matthew Wiener) with hair-trigger timing, a must for any farce to sing. This one doesn’t actually sing, but there are those bagpipes…

Farce has always been feather-light in plot. It’s all about the missed connections and mis-communications, pratfalls and manic mayhem.

Here, in two identical, adjoining motel rooms (designed to a turquoise T by Marty Burnett), two bumbling cops are staging a stakeout, with video set to record a meeting of an accountant (the formerly staid numbers-whiz who can’t seem to keep her clothes on, excellently played by Jessica John) and the Mayor of this town, who they’re hoping will reveal the details of an $18 million embezzlement. Don’t ask why he’s meeting her in a motel; farce is all about improbabilities and lack of logic.

What also comes out in a day chock-full of bedroom antics in a variety of unlikely permutations, is the existence of a Scottish clan (“with a C,” everyone reiterates), a replacement for the Italian mob, that owns and controls everything and everyone in town.

The head honcho is Big Mac, whose right-hand man is the pipes-playing, trigger-happy gunslinger known as The Highland Hitman. His entrance raises the comic bar and swings the laugh-o-meter into overdrive. David McBean, who’s been funny many times in the past, outdoes himself, calling on his own heritage to create a side-splitting accent that devolves into complete unintelligibility when he’s about to ice someone (so they have zero ability to follow his instructions). He does this, by the way, in full Highlands regalia, tartan kilt, argyle knee socks, sporren, puffy-sleeved white shirt and oversized black bearskin (in this case, wildly feathered) hat.

When an inept policemen (Christopher M Williams) knocks him out and commandeers his outfit, the laughs ramp up again, as Williams tries to fake a brogue — and failing miserably, sheepishly admits to his sidekick that he has nothing to call on, since he’s never seen “Brigadoon.” Jacque Wilke, John Nutten, Ted Barton and Dagmar Krause Fields round out the comedically skillful cast.

In the end, secrets are divulged, a timid cop mans up, love blooms, and Good triumphs over Evil. So all’s right with the (wacky) world.

It may be called “Unnecessary Farce,” but it could be crucial to your emotional well-being.


  • “Unnecessary Farce” runs through Mary 10 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Ste D, Solana Beach
  • Performances are Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m.
  • Tickets ($37-$48) are available at 858-481-1055 or online at www.northcoastrep.org
  • Running time:  2 hrs.

Pat Launer is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at www.patteproductions.com.

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