Good timing means everything for the actors in “Unnecessary Farce.”
The Portage High School production debuts tonight and features seven student cast members who understand well what bad timing means — especially after two months of rehearsing.
“At one point I’ll need to say, ‘I sleep naked,’” said senior Kaylin Kole, who plays Officer Billie Dwyer.
The play is about “two cops, three crooks and eight doors,” the school’s poster says, and Kole’s character is working out a sting operation on a mayor she believes is embezzling $16 million. Her line requiring good timing occurs at a point in the play when another character’s interpretation of the situation is “completely wrong,” she said.
Before she delivers it, she needs to move from one door to another, open it, and wait for the right moment.
“You need to be word-perfect with your lines; you need to know them inside and out, end of story,” said director Josh Joles.
“A farce is a completely different animal from a comedy,” he said. “Farces are exaggerated comedies.”
Bad timing means the audience won’t understand what’s happening on stage, Joles and the players explained. If the audience doesn’t understand what’s happening, they won’t laugh.
Because timing is so crucial, Kole and junior AJ DeSomer said they needed to learn everybody else’s lines too. In their preparation for the play, they sat in circles and delivered their lines in “rapid fire,” Kole said, and sometimes they would enlist their friends to help them go over every line.
Mistakes do happen, the students said, so it’s important to move on and do so quickly when they occur.
“Everything is go-go-go,” said DeSomer, who plays a Scottish hit-man named Todd. “There’s no stopping for anything. You need to keep the show going.”
Joles — a Pardeeville native and graduate of the professional acting training program at the University of Utah — hopes he didn’t put too much emphasis on being word perfect. Hard work shouldn’t get in the way of having fun, he said.
Joles directed the school’s production of “These Shining Lives” in January, a drama about the harsh working conditions for women in the 1920s. He picked out “Unnecessary Farce” for its very different set of challenges.
“I wanted to give them a chance to do something they will likely never do again unless they get into professional theater,” Joles said of the award-winning stage comedy written by Paul Slade Smith of Brooklyn, New York.
“They’ve had their struggles, we all have, but we’ve made a lot of gains.”
Sophomore Leo McEvilly indicated that Joles needn’t be worried about lack of fun among the players. McEvilly plays the mayor who seems like “the most incapable person for running a town,” he explained, and as McEvilly and the other cast members became more comfortable with their roles and the script, they experienced plenty of joyful moments.
“There have been moments that put meaning to this whole process,” McEvilly said, recalling one rehearsal where the cast had walked off stage shouting “Yes!” and giving each other high fives because they nailed it.
“We were in the zone,” he said.
McEvilly is one of only two cast members returning from “These Shining Lives,” Aiden Black is the other. McEvilly said he appreciates how different the two plays are. “It casts a wider net to the audience. They might enjoy it more than being sunk into a deep tragedy.
“They get to experience the joy in this along with us,” McEvilly continued. “I’d rather do that than make people cry.”