Monday, October 31, 2016


                                              PLAYWRIGHT PAUL SLADE SMITH

Who couldn't benefit from two hours of laughter?  Imagine combining burlesque, vaudeville, slapstick and a touch of buffoonery: the result might be a magically and maniacally humorous literary work known as farce.  Just ask actor/playwright Paul Slade Smith who a decade ago wrote a comedy that meets all the requirements.  If slamming doors are a prerequisite, he has a maximum of eight.  Add in two seedy motel rooms, two beds and two eager but inept undercover police, a few crooked thieves, a mayor with a penchant for embezzlement, a female accountant who enjoys shedding her clothes and a serious case of whodunit, and you have the ingredients of "Unnecessary Farce."

Playhouse on Park in West Hartford will be hosting this hometown man's play from Wednesday, November 2 to Sunday, November 20, and you are invited to join in on the fun and frolic.  Grab a donut and come discover what audiences in seven countries and four languages, from the U. S. A. to across the pond in Great Britain, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Canada and Iceland now know.  Somehow $16,000,000 has disappeared and the police, a shy Eric and a gung-ho Billie, have a video camera and a sting operation ready to catch the thief or do they? Is Karen the accountant going to help them or is she a repressed sex nymph with her own agenda?

And when the mob arrives, who is more surprised that it is a Mafia of a different color: plaid? Paul Slade Smith is delighted his play is coming to his hometown.  His sister alerted him when she saw the schedule of the Playhouse's line up. The Playhouse was amazed to find the playwright grew up in their backyard.  Who knew?

The play began as a small idea a decade or more ago, when Smith's wife Erin, also an actor, was in a farce and not a very good one.  The performers did the best they could with the material but it was less than stellar.  It's hard to write a good farce, like "A Flea in her Ear," "Noises Off," "Lend Me a Tenor" and "The Foreigner." Smith decided; "I could write a farce. A spark ignited and I had my plot in five minutes.  My first draft was done in six months.  I was in "Phantom of the Opera" at the time and I had my fellow cast members, in a hotel room, help me uncover what worked and what didn't by reading it aloud.  It went wicked fast."

Smith found it fun to write, "amusing, and I would read it to Erin and she would laugh out loud but say it made no sense."  As an actor, Smith feels his strongest skills are comedic and he loves playing farce.  "It's great standing on stage, waiting for the laughs, because the audience doesn't know where the plot is going and can't stop laughing.  I find it a favorite rewarding experience."  He loves the elements of farce, the mistaken identities, the language confusion, someone pretending to be someone they are not.  He originally wrote the cop Eric as a role for himself, although he hasn't played it, and the role of Billie, Eric's partner, for his wife Erin, who has played it a trio of times. Now Smith feels, if the opportunity presented itself, he could play all the male roles except for the villain.

As to his favorite roles, on and off Broadway, he has enjoyed playing Captain Hook and the producer of Peter Pan, Charles Frohman, in "Finding Neverland," Charlie Baker in "The Foreigner," and Mr. Cellophane in "Chicago."

Now that "Unnecessary Farce" is enjoying its 250th production by 2017, Smith is busy with his next show "The Outsider," which is a timely political comedy which he hopes will have a "beautiful future" and prove that reality can be absurd. He also hopes to dapple with writing shows for television, all the while keeping his day job in the theater.

For tickets ($30-40), call the Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford, at 860-
523-5900, ext. 10 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

As Paul Slade Smith has learned, farce is all in the timing.  It is all absurd, yet it has to make sense. His goal is to get the whole thing right.  Come see for yourself if he gets it correct and be sure to slam a door or two on your way in and out.

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