Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot follows the plight of the unemployed, though also entirely endearing, landlord Eric Swan who has found a way to scam the British government out of benefits for his fictitious tenants. His scheme has been providing him with a steady income for two years, but it begins to unravel when a government agent visits him to get signatures on several documents.
Cooney's father is Ray Cooney, who wrote many famous farces, including Run for Your Wife, so he clearly has a pedigree for comedy. Michael Cooney has crafted a rich plot with many layers and an assortment of kooky characters, as well as an ending that ties everything up nicely. However, the beginning of the comedy is a bit slow, taking about 10 minutes for all of the elements to start to jell, and the second act is a bit padded. Fortunately, Cambrian James' direction is sharp and inspired, and his top-notch cast work exceptionally well together as they race through the farce.
Josh Hunt as Eric and Will Hightower as his tenant Norman, who just learned about Eric's scheme, make a winning twosome who play very well off each other. When the lies and mistaken identities start to pile up, their characters get more frenzied and frazzled trying to hold it all together. Tim Paul Fiscus is equally as good as Mr. Jenkins, the agent who comes to obtain the signatures. He is the foil for almost all of the deceptions in the plot and Fiscus is keenly adept at playing the straight man. He also has a moment with an out of control washing machine that is priceless.
Alaina Beauloye is outstanding playing the escalating exasperated tones of Eric's fraught wife Linda, who doesn't know about his fraudulent activities and still believes he is employed. In supporting parts, Joey Morrison is hilarious with perfectly timed bits of physical comedy as Eric's battle scared Uncle George, and Lindsay Hope is a hoot as crisis counselor Sally. Also, Matthew R. Harris is perfectly befuddled as a bewildered marriage counselor, Darryl Poenisch is similarly confused as an undertaker, Christine Conger is sweet and charming as Norman's fiancée, and Jamie Bauer is steely as a battle-axe as Jenkins' no-nonsense boss.
James keeps the pace fast and the frenzy at a perfectly heightened level, and ensures his actors have not only good comic timing but also support each other, so the jokes all land and get big laughs. Creative elements are excellent, with Brian Daily's set design simple but effective, including the requisite number of doors a good farce requires, and Tia Hawkes' costumes all character specific with comical touches. Gary Towne's sound design features some fun audio effects.
With an abundance of laugh out loud moments and a very game cast, Hale Centre Theatre's production of Cash on Delivery is a comically rich and infectiously funny farce.
Cash on Delivery, through February 9, 2019, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling 480-497-1181.
Directed by Cambrian James