I started reflecting on my own love of farce. Why would I prefer to see a silly play about mistaken identities, misunderstood characters, and double entendres rather than a serious play about something more “worthwhile”? Do I use theatre to escape?
I might. Sometimes I get too wrapped up with other things I’m doing. But in farce, there’s always the beauty of the unexpected. Perhaps as theatre goers we can pretend to rise above the action and think to ourselves, well, I certainly knew what was going to happen. The characters, however, never get that luxury. They’re always at a loss because they’re operating from incomplete information. They don’t hear the full story. They make assumptions. They think they know what they’re seeing. They fail to consider other options.
All this has to be done with perfect comic timing. That’s another aspect I love. Much as I lose patience with the slow movement of any symphony, I sometimes get impatient with wordy dramas. “Come on!” I want to tell the characters. “Let’s get on with it!”
In farce, the quicker the action, the more surprised the characters, the funnier the reactions, the bigger the payoff. The plot hits us before we can blink, and as audience members, we appreciate the economy and the smooth style.
The current play at Live Theatre Workshop is a case in point. Move Over Mrs. Markham utilizes more than two hundred exits and entrances. The doors bang left and right. The characters become dizzy as they trip over their words and one another. The timing? Perfect. The laughter? Unstoppable. (I may have been the loudest one in the audience—sorry.) Once again, LTW has provided wonderful performances and topnotch entertainment.
As I left the theatre, though, I kept wondering why farce is a personal favorite. Since I don’t have all the answers, I’ll have to see a few more examples of them. Many examples. And that’s plain lucky.
There are elements of farce in my novels Mariachi Murder and Thai Twist. I guess I can’t help myself. Thank goodness.