Those zany farces by playwright Ray Cooney (bless 'im) are as similar to each other as those in a TV situation comedy series. For Cooney, it's mistaken identities, slamming doors, clueless law enforcement officials, double entendres (usually including Cooney's favorite synonym for felines) and a very satisfying ending.
And like the best of sitcoms — Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and Curb Your Enthusiasm — Cooney's farces can be a delight.
His Funny Money, playing weekends through Jan. 31 at Richey Suncoast Theatre, is no exception, thanks to an excellent cast, Dee Ford's fine direction, and, of course, Cooney's crazy situations and belly-busting laugh lines.
Bill Schommer (Handyman in My Husband's Wild Desires) is a stage jewel, and he shines like the Hope Diamond in the lead role of Henry Perkins, a nondescript office drone who accidentally exchanges his briefcase full of mundane office drivel for that of a low-level gangster delivering $5 million to a gang kingpin.
Schommer's effervescent face, with its angelically guileless smile, and brilliant physical moves can make an entire scene snap, crackle and pop.
Henry, realizing that the unmarked $50 bills are ill-gotten gains, decides to forsake his birthday party and take the money and run off to Barcelona with his wife, Jean, played with adorable appeal by the perky and petite Ginger King — never mind that their best friends Betty and Vic Johnson (Trish Farber, Barry Silber) will arrive soon to celebrate Henry's big day.
Henry orders plane tickets and a cab and tells Jean to pack a skimpy bag, as they'll buy everything they need at their destination.
This simple plan goes awry when the nefarious Hoboken police Sgt. Davenport (a delightful Nathan Sakovich) shows up to check out Henry's strange behavior at a neighborhood bar, misinterprets Henry's every move and soon demands a cut of the loot.
Just as the situation seems to be resolving itself, the painfully foursquare New York police Sgt. Slater (Mark Lewis at his best) shows up with news that should be tragic but instead is terrific.
All the doings are frequently interrupted by a blustery, tough-talking cab driver, Billie (Kristy Smithwick), whose demands and predicaments change the course of the action at every turn.
Over the last few years (actually, since the arrival of theater stalwarts Charlie and Marie Skelton), Richey Suncoast patrons have started taking for granted that the sets, scenery, sounds, lights and costumes will be spot on, but, even so, the work of the sizable behind-the-scenes crew should be noted, particularly sound operators Caitlin Ramirez and Molly Laird, stage manager Rich Aront, and light operator Ren Relli, who didn't seem to miss a cue on opening night.