'Cooks' farce promises to be a witty dish
The recipe for a theatrical farce might be compared to that of a good soup: Take a handful of over-the-top characters, throw them into hot water, and mix well. That concoction yields delicious results in “Too Many Cooks,” a new farce making its regional debut this weekend through July 6 at St. Vincent Summer Theatre.
Congenial restaurateur Irving Bubbalowe and his daughter, Honey, are preparing to open their new French restaurant, Chateau Bubbalowe, in Prohibition-era Niagara Falls. They have hired famous French chef Francois LaPlouffe as their star attraction.
Meanwhile, bootleggers have been secretly using the restaurant's basement to stash smuggled booze. On the night Chateau Bubbalowe is to open, the chef disappears, gangsters come looking for their booze, an immigration officer comes looking for the chef, and a Canadian Mountie comes looking for the gangsters. In true farcical fashion, a series of misunderstandings and mistaken identities add up to a hilarious recipe for chaos.
“I found myself laughing out loud the first time I read the script,” says director Colleen Reilly. “I knew we could do a good job with it.”
The show is humorous on many levels, says Michael Fuller, who plays Canadian Mountie Hamilton Effing. “There's so much physical comedy and so many fast-paced bits, but there's also witty dialogue and clever lines.”
The characters' personality foibles add yet another level of comedy. Effing is “very strait-laced, kind of like a Dudley Do-Right character,” Fuller says. “He's a bumbling inspector.”
It was the bumbling side of his character that drew Fuller, who has more than a decade of experience on the St. Vincent stage, to the role. “He thinks he's so on the ball and so smart, but he's not that at all,” Fuller says.
Effing has come to the restaurant to track down mob boss Alfonse “Noodles” Feghetti, played by David Cabot. Like his nemesis, Feghetti “is not as smart as he thinks he is,” Cabot says.
Nevertheless, Feghetti's arrival at the restaurant sparks fear in the hearts of the other characters. “He sets off a firestorm of people pretending to be other people so Alfonse doesn't rub them out,” Cabot says. “It moves at breakneck speed. Once it starts, it's like a train barreling down the tracks.”
St. Vincent newcomers Bob Turano and Abby Quatro play restaurant owner Bubbalowe and Honey, while Luke Halferty makes his debut as mob thug Shirley. Rounding out the cast are Karen Baum as immigration officer Veronica Snook, Kevin Daniel O'Leary as unemployed cook Frank Plunkett and Alex Walton as delivery man Mickey McCall.
This year for the first time, St. Vincent Summer Theatre will offer free admission to U.S. military veterans and active-duty personnel during the week of July 4 as long as seats are available.
“It's our way of saying thank you to the men and women who enable us to do what we do here and to do it freely,” says Colleen Reilly. Seats must be reserved in advance; call the box office for more information.
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.