Hopewell’s Off-Broadstreet Theater is again closing out its season with a British farce, Ray and Michael Cooney’s “Tom, Dick and Harry.” Three years ago the final production of the season was Ray Cooney’s “Run for Your Wife.” Like all good farces, “Tom, Dick and Harry” builds on the characters’ misunderstandings of each others’ actions and motives. Unlike the frequent pattern in farces, however, in “Tom, Dick and Harry” the plot is not propelled by the characters’ amorous intrigues but by their need to disguise their illegal economic shenanigans. Characters are forced into making up stories to obfuscate what’s really happening, and then they find themselves trapped by the story they have just told into even greater mistruths.
A respectable young couple, Tom and Linda Kerwood, are hoping to adopt a baby, and as the play opens, they are preparing for a visit from a representative from the adoption agency. Linda goes out to buy more flowers to spruce up the already splendid living room, and while she is gone, a man appears. This is not the representative of the adoption agency, but Tom’s brother Dick, who lives upstairs. He has borrowed Tom’s car for the weekend, and much to Tom’s surprise, has taken the car across the English Channel and back, returning home with a load of illegally acquired cigarettes and brandy, which he proceeds to bring into the house. He has also left Tom’s van open on the street, apparently an invitation to both the law and the underworld.
Next to appear is Tom’s other brother, Harry, who works at a nearby hospital. Harry has stolen a corpse, which he sees as an economic engine. He plans to bury the pieces of the corpse in Tom and Linda’s backyard. Then, when they are discovered, the value of the house will drop so much that Tom and Linda will be able to afford to buy it. Tom refuses to go along with Harry’s plan, but because there’s no time to dispose of all the body parts, their reappearance at unwelcome moments is a recurring gimmick in the development of the plot.
The situation becomes even more complicated when an older man and his granddaughter, illegal immigrants who may or may not have been hiding in the van, appear in the house. The man, who carries bagpipes on his back, which he occasionally plays, knows no English, and his granddaughter, although she is quick to catch on, does not know much. The appearance of the law, in the person of Constable Downs, forces everyone into fabricating ever more preposterous stories, and when Mrs. Potter from the adoption agency finally appears, the range of the covering stories reaches absurd and fantastic levels. Since this is a comedy, the audience knows it will turn out all right in the end, but the actors must twist themselves into ever more convoluted shapes before everything can be straightened out.
Only one member of the “Tom, Dick and Harry” cast, John Bergeron, who plays Dick, is not an Off-Broadstreet veteran. Barry Abromowitz (Harry) was in last fall’s “The Thing about Men.” Both Brady Dunbar Niederer (Tom) and George Agalias (Constable Downs) appeared in “A Nice Family Gathering.” Mrs. Potter from the adoption agency is played by Lillian Israel, who was the Mother Superior in Off-Broadstreet’s “Meshuga Nuns.” James Boyd, the bagpipe-carrying Andreas, appeared at Off-Broadstreet in “A Joyful Noise,” and Katerina, the mysterious young woman who is with Andreas, was in the recent “Leader of the Pack.” Kerrin Paul, who plays Tom’s wife, Linda, appeared in “The Great American Backstage Musical.” And Bob Thick, in addition to everything else he does at Off-Broadstreet, including being responsible for the direction and the design of “Tom, Dick and Harry,” appears toward the end of the play as a double-dealing agent of evil.
The costumes are the work of Ann Raymond, who once again has provided functional and attractive clothes. Harry is in hospital scrubs, but Tom and Dick are sharply set apart, Tom very proper with jacket and tie, Dick in a tee and low-riding pants. The presence in the cast of Katerina and the bagpipe player gives Raymond an opportunity to be a little more off the wall than is usually the case.
Details are not always in place on opening nights, but in this case the cast seemed to have the situation well in hand. The interactions among the cast members can only get better, and for those who’d like to put behind them the worries of the world and be amused by a clever play, “Tom, Dick and Harry” should prove satisfying. And for those who are worrying about a long gap without an Off Broadstreet treat after this show closes on May 22, the good news is that the 2010-2011 season begins on June 4.
Tom, Dick, and Harry, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Saturday, May 22. Ray Cooney farce about a couple awaiting a visit from an adoption agency. $27.50 to $29.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.