’Coarse Acting” serves up charming mistakes

Ordinarily, a play that includes a 10-foot long dining room table that breaks and has to be held up by the actors sitting at it, a character in a scene flipping over a smaller table and sending plates and glasses scattering and other such blunders would be generally labeled a failure. However, when put into the context of the show A Night Of Coarse Acting, in which occurrences like these are central to the point of the performance, not only would I have paid to see it again but afterwards I felt the need to shake the hand of director Jesse Gordon “10.

A Night of Coarse Acting includes four sketches – they couldn”t quite be labeled “one-acts” – in which the actors, who all play different roles in each sketch, can”t seem to have anything go right for them. It may seem shallow to base the comedic impact of a show on things like props breaking and actors slipping and falling, but in Coarse Acting it works. And it works well. There”s something delightful in watching everything go wrong with a production. It seems so counterintuitive, and yet it”s quite refreshing.

Perhaps the funniest of the four scenes – or perhaps not, since picking a favorite scene from this show for me is like picking a favorite Snack Bar item – but in any case, an especially memorable scene from the show was titled A Collier”s Tuesday Tea. Ida Hepplethwaite (played by Lydia Barnett-Mulligan “10) and her husband Daniel (Frank Zimmerman “10) have some guests, including their daughter, her boyfriend and friends of the family, over for tea. However, this is Coarse Acting, and thus things must go wrong. One of the comedic techniques of this show, which only works in some cases (Monty Python and Family Guy come to mind) is letting the jokes be drawn out so long that the audience only becomes more hysterical.

This strategy is displayed perfectly when suddenly, while Daniel Hepplethwaite is sitting at the table, a leg breaks off. He struggles to balance the table, but not long after, all the legs break off, leaving the prim and proper Victorian family literally holding up their table while attempting to have a high-society tea. The longer that they hold the table, for some reason, the funnier it becomes. Other such unfortunate events include Albert Hepplethwaite (Joe Lorenz “10) asking for a hard-boiled egg, only to crack it and get runny yolk all over him, and Ida mentioning that the tea was done, followed by a train whistle sounding as a kettle.

The audience was literally in an uproar at this point in the performance, although that”s not saying much as this entire show rarely got less than that response throughout. My eyes were certainly blotchy at the end of the show, from laughing so hard that I cried.

Unfortunately I can”t go into as much detail about the other sketches, but keeping it brief, they included a vignette about an English murder mystery, a political piece involving a rollerblading sugar cube and a scene about estranged lovers whose romantic hotel rendezvous goes terribly wrong. Particularly in the latter scene, Pearson Jenks “09 and Liza Curtiss “10 as lovers Oliver and Lavinia were quite droll, although there wasn”t a single actor in this well-cast show that was anything less than hysterical.

I won”t gush any more, it”s unnecessary. But I will say that I have never before laughed as hard at a performance (except maybe The Reduced Shakespeare Company, but that goes without saying) as I did at Coarse Acting. Gordon and his entire cast and production staff truly hit a home run with this show. I have not talked to a single person who attended and didn”t enjoy this performance immensely. I suppose that in the very specific and isolated case of Coarse Acting, having everything that can go wrong, go wrong, only makes the show better.