Sometimes you just have to laugh, and a well constructed and performed farce is exactly what you need. For the Gremlin Theatre, An Absolute Turkey completely fits the bill.
"After our initial plans for a script fell through, Peter Hansen and I said to ourselves, 'Let's just do something really fun.' One of us suggested the idea of a classic French comedy, and we realized that genre hasn't really been seen much since Jeune Lune dissolved," says director Brian Balcom.
He and Hansen, Gremlin's artistic director, sat down to find the perfect comedy. It turned out to be tougher than they thought. "A lot of the translations in the local libraries are older, where the language and humor seemed archaic and outdated," Balcom says.
They found a recent adaptation of Georges Feydeau's Le Dindon by Nicki Frei and Peter Hall that was originally produced at the new Shakespeare's Globe in London.
"We chose this script because of its complex plot and smart translation; it's a very lively piece with witty dialogue and opportunities for big, physical comedy," Balcom says.
Gremlin has a long history with these kinds of comedies. "The first show we ever produced was a hilarious French farce, and we haven't done a show like this for a long, long time," Hansen says.
Of course, there's more to do than just choosing the work. Staging a farce is an art all unto itself.
"The biggest challenge we've discovered is the speed at which the text needs to be played. It is designed and built to move as quickly as possible with no time to act or even think. Trusting that structure and letting the text do most of the work has been difficult, as it contradicts what most of us understand about acting. It's not easy to convince an actor they need to do less acting," Balcom says.
For the actors and the director, it's also best not to dwell much on the deep meaning of the text. "It's a farce. The content of the play is superfluous and rather inconsequential. It's about the light indiscretions of the middle class. I'm no history buff, but I imagine it was seen as just as much fluff as it is today," Balcom says.
"What makes the play very funny is not a bunch of clever lines, but the way the characters just plow ahead, acting and speaking without thinking things through at all. It has a madcap momentum that is really quite brilliant," Hansen says.
In the end, that should be just what a Memorial Day weekend or early summer audience wants. "It's entertainment, pure and simple. We hope the audience has fun," Balcom says.