The cast of Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s production “Funny Money” includes, seated, from left, Michael DuMouchel, Jonelle Meyer, Rick Kistner and Barbara Anthony; standing, Tracy Borgatti, Joseph Alan Johnson, Jennifer Sloane and Brent Ballard.
Surreptitiousness, satire and shtick are the key ingredients of Early Bird Dinner Theatre’s newest farce.
“Funny Money” is a Ray Cooney farce which originally premiered in London in 1994. The play was adapted for the big screen in 2006, starring Chevy Chase and Penelope Ann Miller.
The production, “Funny Money,” runs through June 20, at Early Bird Dinner Theatre, presented at the Italian-American Club, 200 S. McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater.
Seating is 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday is 4 p.m.; and 11 a.m. for Thursday and Saturday matinees. Admission is $29.90 a person.
When Henry Perkins, a rather docile, good-tempered public accountant, grabs the wrong briefcase and stumbles on a significant amount of money, he sees it as his only chance at escaping his routine middle-class existence.
Henry lays out a perfect scheme in which he and his wife, Jean, abscond with the money, first to Barcelona and then on to other ports-of-call, living a life of luxury.
Nothing ever goes as planned in a farce, though, does it?
Almost immediately, all kinds of obstacles are thrown in Henry’s path to the charmed life – starting with a visit by a Detective Sergeant Davenport, who wants to question the accountant about his curious behavior in a public restroom earlier that evening.
Add to the mix dinner guests Vic and Betty Johnson, who had planned to celebrate Henry’s birthday; Billie, an impatient but sly taxi driver; Detective Sergeant Slater, who believes Henry’s been murdered; and the obtuse Mr. Big, whose looking for his misplaced “brerfcurse.”
Like most farces, the play involves unlikely situations, mistaken identity and duplicity. What makes “Funny Money” more amusing is that Henry and Jean inadvertently concoct a different set of lies for each new character stepping onto the stage. Watching them struggle to keep their stories straight is priceless.
Michael DuMouchel takes on the role of Henry in “Funny Money.” In his first appearance at Early Bird Dinner Theatre, he places the character at the center of the storm, playing it relatively cool while others spin out of control around him.
Jonelle Meyer, most recently seen in “There’s a Burglar in My Bed,” plays Jean. Her boisterous and entertaining performance proves to be the production’s centerpiece: She alone gets to play both an author of the absurd untruths and a first-time inebriate.
As Davenport, Brent Ballard conjures a cunningly crooked cop, less threatening than impish. There’s a hint of John Cleese in his mannerisms and delivery.
Rounding out the cast are Jennifer Sloane as Billie, Barbara Anthony as Betty, Rick Kistner as Vic, Tracy Borgatti as Slater and Joseph Alan Johnson as Mr. Big. All are Early Bird Dinner Theater veterans and all give marvelous supporting performances.
Audiences will find much to enjoy about this production, from the string of lies which range from improbable to preposterous, to the misunderstandings and mistaken identities. Recurring changes in fortune – and wives – keep viewers guessing whether Henry will see his dreams fulfilled ... or return to his dull, conventional lifestyle.