The North American Premiere engagement for CONDO-MONIUM kicked off last week at the New Theater & Restaurant in Overland Park with a super-cast and direction by Dennis D. Hennessey running through April 8. CONDO-MONIUM is an updated farce from a very similar English show called LOFT OUT. Both versions are by British journalist and playwright Jennifer Selway. Barry Williams as Hughin CONDO-MONIUM
Director Hennessy has assembled an excellent cast led by Barry Williams of Brady Bunch fame and supported by Cathy Barnett, Craig Benton, Ashlee LaPine, Jennifer Mays, Carmen Roman, James Wright and Matt Williamson.
Farce is a particular kind of comedy that is not written much nowadays. These comedies are characterized by crazy plots, broad and bawdy jokes, and screaming reactions from the audience.
It’s because of how extreme the form is that the difficulty of timing all the jokes and intrigues and lapses about sex becomes apparent and all the more entertaining.
Farces date back at least to the time of William Shakespeare with his ‘Comedy of Errors’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
CONDO-MONIUM tells a story that is familiar in today’s world. A real estate investment trust (REIT) has purchased a condominium on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The new owners intend to get rid of all current tenants and turn their former apartments into condominiums.
There is a level of statutory protection for long term tenants. Their leases continue at going rates as long as they meet the terms of their contracts. If the new owners kick out the previous occupants; old tenants get extraordinary compensation for their troubles. Craig Benton (Niles) and Jennifer Mays (Angela) are spied on by Matt Williamson (Tim) in CONDO-MONIUM
Historically, the people forced out in these situations are the least able to afford it. The REIT has hired a young man named Tim Forrester (Matt Williamson) to spy on the current residents and eventually evict them for good cause. The apartments are expected to be primary residences and current tenants are prohibited from subletting.
Two middle-aged couples occupy the two most affected apartments. Hugh (Barry Williams) and Claire Carmichael (Carmen Roman) appear to be affluent and wealthy. Their friends Phil and Trudy Gibson live just below them. Appearances aren’t always what they seem.
Hugh has been a Wall Street banker for many years. In addition to this Upper East Side apartment, they have other homes on Fire Island and Long Island. Hugh is a bright guy, but he hasn’t kept up with all the latest debt instruments and acquisition strategies. He is discovered and escorted from his large office. Hugh is fiscally embarrassed. He has to sell some of his assets and sublet the apartment. Hugh still hasn’t told Claire that he lost his job. And oh yeah, we find out that Hugh has a well-known hobby of dressing up in women’s clothing.
Phil (James Wright) and Trudy are also interesting tenants. It turns out that Phil is a gangster. He claims to be a fountain pen mogul. Trudy (who we assume is her doll) has been in an accident. She fell off an airboat in the Florida Everglades only to be eaten by a hungry alligator. Phil did not report this tragedy to the police out of fear that his fountain pen business would not stand up to a police investigation.
Barry Williams (Hugh) and James Wright (Phil) discuss Hugh replacing the late Trudy in CONDO-MONIUM
Phil also has another problem. He and Trudy were never actually married. Her name is on the lease, and her revealed death will cause Phil to lose his home without REIT compensation. Since Tim is always sniffing around, Phil asks Hugh to impersonate Trudy (in disguise) until the flat compensation is settled.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Claire has agreed to lend the apartment to a friend of hers for an assignment or “afternoon joy.” That should be fine because Claire’s friend Angela (Jennifer Mays) is a widow. She is starting a fling with a married lawyer named Niles Fletcher (Craig Benton). Angela believes she is more attractive as a cheating wife than she is as a widow grieving for a potential lover. Jennifer Mays (Angela) prepares to receive in CONDO-MONIUM
At the same time (if you’re not confused enough already) Hugh has a potential sublet tenant for the apartment named Sandrine (Ashlee LaPine) who he is about to show the apartment to. Hugh is unaware that Claire has lent the flat to Angela and Niles. Niles (it turns out) is Sandrine’s dad. And unbeknownst to almost everyone is that Sandrine is only posing as a potential tenant. She really is Tim’s girlfriend.
Oh…and the roof is leaking in the electrical system, the apartment has rats and the comical Croatian waitress Jade (Cathy Barnett) knows everyone’s secrets and is also a clever Alec. She ensues hilarity! There is a big reveal twist at the end of the show, but I won’t spoil that for you.
By now you can see the humor of the situations. I didn’t reveal the jokes or the spoiler. Joe Burkard’s set has five doors, so most of the characters going in and out never meet. The farce depends on the timing.
What we have is a well-acted, well-scripted early version of a funny situation and farce comedy. You will enjoy it, but I suspect this show will grow and become even funnier. “Hadestown,” which just starred KC after winning eight Tony Awards, went through nine iterations before taking on its final form. This is the second version of CONDO-MONIUM.
Tickets are available online or by phone at 913-649-SHOW.