Farce Fitting For Tax Time

Farce Fitting For Tax Time

Just completed your 1040? Ready to laugh a bit at the absurdity of the IRS or the way people react to the mere whisper of the word “audit?”

The Little Theatre of Alexandria has just opened a bright and spirited production of a short comedy that takes the IRS to task in the way a sitcom on television would. That may be because its authors are veteran sitcom writers. What they did for “Newhart” and “Martin” and other situation comedies, they do for this tale of two roommates who have reason to be concerned when the tax man cometh.

Three brisk acts filled with farcical complications and quick gags have been mounted by director Frank Pasqualino at top velocity to get the maximum laughter without letting the audience pause to contemplate either the complications of the plot or the limitations of the cast.

That cast brings more energy and enthusiasm to the piece than skill, but in this type of play it is precisely the energy and enthusiasm quotient that matters the most. Pasqualino takes full advantage of their willingness to go full tilt at the story which was never intended to be taken seriously in the first place.

Nathan Tatro is the only-slightly-less-frantic half of the pair of roommates, and he’s a fine foil for many of the stronger sight gags. He’s a soon-to-be-married young man who, for the past few years, has been filing his taxes and those of his roommate jointly, as if they were man and wife.

The fact that his roommate’s name happens to be “Leslie” may have helped keep the IRS from thinking he might be the young man he really is – at least until now.

Alex Avila is “Leslie,” who has another problem on his mind before the arrival of the IRS man. He’s begun “messing around” with his roomie’s fiancée. She is having difficulty calling off the engagement and every time he tries to raise the subject, he loses his voice. Avila has come up with a

very funny noise, a honking that is triggered by the tension of the situation.

A very cute and chipper Nora Petito plays the roommate’s fiancée and a smooth Paula Vickers is Tatro’s older but hardly more mature mother. There are also comic contributions from Ashley Edmiston as “Leslie’s” girlfriend

and Bill Brannigan as the landlord – doesn’t every sitcom built on the problems of young renters include a nosy landlord or super?

THE REAL COMIC engine for the evening, however, is the IRS agent in the person of Greg Christopher, who enters at a high comedy setting and escalates all evening long. He’s funny enough just going through the early audit routines, but once the roommates start to ply him with liquor, he goes into an even higher gear.

Avila, of course, ends up in drag and the complications of mistaken identity compound as the evening progresses. Pasqualino chooses to perform the first two acts without an intermission which keeps the total time of the show

under two hours, but the audience really could benefit from a pause to absorb some of the more outlandish plot developments between each of the three acts.

The Little Theatre has a reputation for striking set designs. John Downing has designed another fine set for this farce, with doors enough to slam, a large window through which to see some of the more outlandish physical comedy and a balcony overlooking the apartment’s living room.  The highjinks that take place on that set provide lots of laughs over the period of time it would take to watch four sitcoms ... and here you don’t have to sit through any commercials.

Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a Web site covering theater in the region  (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.