By the end of the first scene, I saw a boy in a bra, an old guy’s hand on a woman’s breast and a stage full of, well, “boobs.” Sometimes, something lowbrow can be highly entertaining.
Starlight Dinner Theatre’s “Farce of Habit” had a cast of loonies who made non-stop jokes, puns and occasionally indecorous jests that kept the nearly full, opening night house chuckling. The comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten some times pushed the limits of risqué without ever being vulgar. Almost always, “Farce of Habit” was outrageous.
Costumer Susan DeRosa had a lot to do with the farce’s wild image. It seemed characters who started the play in rather ordinary costumes either ended up in crazier and crazier, colorful outfits — or ended up with no pants — all to the audience’s delight.
Sean McKeon as Ty Wilburn had some of the most shocking get-ups. He was nonchalant with each outlandish — and frequently feminine — change. With some show-stopping entrances, McKeon showed how to wear flashy garments in a production that displayed the absurd while regularly stealing the show.
James Houska as the radio celebrity Jack McNair demonstrated a command of his despicable part the moment he stepped onto the stage inside the Waverly East Intermediate School. Erin Barger was skillfully believable in the role of Erin Barger — a feat that was even more impressive since she joined the cast less than two weeks before the performance. Although some in the ensemble made infrequent dialogue slip-ups, Barger never did.
Bob Robinson added charm to the unpredictable role of Huddle Fisk — an oddball character who switched into multiple, oddball get-ups. The likeable Angela Dill flawlessly fit her part as an uber-flexible and animated Wanelle Wilburn. Diana Lett was perfect as the ruler-whacking, wacky Sister Mary Agnes. Being covered by a nun’s habit didn’t hide her comical facial expressions.
Jean Burk adeptly delivered her lines and frequent screams as the plagued-byhot-flashes Barb Stratton. As D. Gene Wilburn, Chris Goeckel’s shining moments were when a “potion” addled his voice and movements, and when he intentionally dropped his pants.
The bravest cast member of “Farce of Habit” had to be Jan Ross as the cop Maxie Wilburn Suggs. Her “undercover” coverings left anything under her waist hardly covered.
It would take a crafty director to keep a play like “Farce of Habit” from being a human demolition derby on a stage. Michael Hays managed to keep the action flowing while only allowing intentional, slapstick collisions. He kept nine actors fluid as they ran through two working doors and hallway openings, dived behind a couch and delivered witty lines that poked fun at acting and community theater.
Jim Lorenz’s impressively painted faux log fishing lodge set added much to the unfolding circus. Lorenz also designed clever lighting that included realistic lightning flashes and flickering, comical, “Dunt! Dunt! Dunt! Dun!” moments. Daryll Schmitz designed the elaborate sound effects that included accurate woodsy sounds, storm howls, gun shots and phone noises.
It took three people: Linda Granger, Christina Clark-Cassady and Evon Anderson to fill the lobby of the lodge with copious adornments — such as a mounted, stuffed-toy moose, bear, deer, a canoe bookshelf and an ugly, bucolic wall hanging. Mary Herrbach’s fish-and-rod audience dinner table decorations added yet another enchanting detail.
The name of “Farce of Habit’s” mythical lodge was the “Reel ‘Em Inn.” And yes: I was wholeheartedly reeled in by the nutty comedy. The play had me willfully hooked.
“Farce of Habit” Nov. 3-4 Dinner 6:30 p.m./ Performance 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 Dessert 1:30 p.m./ Performance 2 p.m. Tickets start at $36 Starlight Dinner Theatre 3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing Starlightdinnertheatre.com (517) 599-2779