“What’s the next play at VWCT?” Merry Thomas asks me while we enjoy our chocolate long-johns from Brookside.
cream stuck to the edges my mouth, “It’s called Don’t Drink the Water, a
Woody Allen farce about this New Jersey family on the run from the
Communist police who think they’re spies and have to take refuge in an
American embassy run by the son of the ambassador, an incompetent young
man who’s been banned from the continent of Africa.”
what,” says Merry as she pets her precious ‘lil beagle named Chell,
“we’ve deboned our fair share of farces over the years, starred in quite
a few, and even had some email correspondence with the likes of Pat
Cook and Billy Van Zandt (famous playwrights); I bet we could write a
farce of our own.”
Merry scrambles to get her dainty, Miss Piggy notepad in preparation
for milling some ideas. I can see the metaphorical cogs in her brain
beginning to turn as she scratches her head with the eraser of a Dixon
Ticonderoga pencil. “We needs lots of doors, like eight of ‘um” she
exclaims, her pencil furiously scribing, “with really strong hinges!” A
common bit within a traditional farce is a ton of fast-paced stage
entrances and exits.
“Do we want a ghostly element? Or maybe a
dead body that the cast keeps losing track of?” I add to keep the
thought-snowball rolling. “All of the above?” she replies in a
“And it seems like every farce
we’ve been in ends with a joke from lamesville. It’s like a fart in the
audience’s face. Remember Marnie’s lines at the end of Wrong Window last
year at VWCT (starring Amber Evans who is also starring in our current
production Don’t Drink the Water)?”
“What if at the end of our
farce, the entire cast does a chorus line to a zippy-tune and then turns
around and simultaneously farts at the audience and then curtain
closes?” I inquire. My question is met with dumbstruck silence.
Suddenly, Merry enthusiastically retorts, “YYESSS! We’re doing this This
is a thing!” as she continues to take notes.
For over an hour,
Merry and I researched the genre of farce laying the foundation for our
play. “Farce” as defined on Wikipedia, is “a comedy that depends for its
humor on quick and surprising turns of events and on exaggerated
characters and situations, or the type of humor characteristic of such a
Farces found their start with the Greeks, through the
Satyr play in honor of Dionysus (god of the grape harvest) These were
bawdy tragicomedies that were rife with mock drunkenness, sight gags,
pranks and general wackiness. These were followed by the Atellan Farce.
Popular in ancient Rome and named after the town Atella where they
originated, Atellan Farces were rife with low-brow humor and buffoonish
comedy. Japan also got in the on the act with Kyogen plays, absurd
interludes meant as intermissions to the more solemn Noh plays.
the greatest writers in the English language tried their hand at farce.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s immortal “The Canterbury Tales” has elements of
farce, while anyone familiar with William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of
Errors” can attest to the Bard’s abilities with the absurd. The United
States naturally gave the farce its own American zap of zaniness, most
notably with the screwball comedies of the 1930s.
once been relegated to the lowest level of the series headed by tragedy,
has a dozen definitions in standard reference books that testify to the
fact that it is a “low” form of theatrical presentation, the sole
object of which, according to resources, is to excite laughter. I
strongly disagree with these assertions.
Our current production,
Don’t Drink the Water by Woody Allen is certainly not the village idiot
of the performing arts. Like all of Woody Allen’s scripts, it has heart
and depth in addition to a generous helping of slapstick and horseplay.
Mark your calendars now. Don’t Drink the Water will be performed March
13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23 at the Van Wert Civic Theatre. The
box-office opens to the general public beginning March 10. Please join
us as we continue VWCT’s own tradition of fantastic, absurdly funny
farces. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Pinterest, and
visit http://vwct.org for more information.
Also, keep an eye out
for Merry Thomas and Nick McClellan’s two-act farce entitled, Eight
Doors and a Fart - coming to a community theatre near you (maybe).