‘Cash on Delivery,” a non-stop British “tour de farce” that leaves an audience weak from laughter, is Derby Dinner Playhouse’s inspired choice for its 40th anniversary opening.
Under producer Bekki Jo Schneider’s mile-a-minute direction of a cast that throws itself into the play’s demented doings with total seriousness, there’s hardly a moment to catch a breath before the next preposterous happening.
Eric Swan (Cary Wiger), who lost his job about two years ago, cashed a check mailed to a former tenant and, unknown to his wife (Tina Jo Wallace), then worked up a “fiddle,” as the Brits call a larcenous scheme, to bilk the Social Security Department of other sums in other names.
When Mr. Jenkins, a government agent (John Vessels), shows up to request signatures on a form, Swan corrals tenant Norman McDonald (J. R. Stuart) into impersonating Swan himself, who pretends to be someone else.
Wiger, Stuart, and Vessels are expert farceurs with impeccable timing, verbal dexterity, and wide-eyed determination to compel others to believe their lies. For extra added silliness there’s a weird pseudo-Asian (if that’s what it was) accent employed by Vessels as the hopelessly square agent.
Farce without slamming doors would not be cricket so scenic and properties designer Ron Riall provides two here that get a heavy workout from all 10 characters, whose stamina and physical agility would seem to defy gravity.
Vessels as Mr. Jenkins recaps in act two what has thus far taken place for the formidable chief borough inspector Ms. Cowper (Elizabeth Loos) who has come to check on him. What he recounts makes no sense to anyone who’s sane so do not expect a reviewer to do it. As one of Pirandello’s characters said, “Life is full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true.”
However, Bill Hanna’s Uncle George (Swan’s uncle) has to be cheered as he plays a corpse in red underwear and is jolted around on an undertaker’s stretcher, stuffed into a window seat, and upended into a dustbin supposedly filled with last month’s kitty litter.
But wait — cross-dressing enters the plot. Swan’s wife suspects he’s a transvestite when she discovers female clothes and undergarments in the house. She brings in Dr. Chapman, a humorless psychiatrist (Paul Kerr), who calls it “a suppressed mother fixation.”
That blond wig and dress end up on Stuart (don’t ask) to hilarious effect. And Ms. Cowper is furious when Swan, thinking she is Uncle George in drag, jokingly gets touchy-feely with her and Mr. Jenkins.
“Cash On Delivery” by Michael Cooney, son of famed playwright Ray Cooney, whose classic farces include “Run For Your Wife” and “Caught in the Net” (both previously produced by Derby Dinner) is quite the bawdy romp with decidedly unsubtle blue notes. Just leave your sensitivities at home and have yourself a ball.
“Cash On Delivery” runs through June 29. For tickets and information: 812-288-8281, toll free 877-898-8577, or www.derbydinner.com.