Wordplay, duplicity and extreme Britishness are the key elements of “Tons of Money,” a 1920s-style farce being performed at the Springville Playhouse by the Playhouse Youth Guild.
It’s your basic farce, but without the sex. Long-suffering Aubrey (Tyler Thorstrom) and slightly dim Louise (Laurel Asay) Allington are a live-beyond-their-means couple in high society London. A dead relative leaves them a wad of dough, but with one catch: Once Aubrey dies, whatever money’s left will go to his cousin George, whom everyone presumes to have died in Mexico but who is officially still alive.
No problem, Louise decides. We’ll fake Aubrey’s death, then have him show up in disguise as George, claim the money, and live happily ever after. The death-faking goes well, but when Aubrey shows up pretending to be George, he discovers his butler, Sprules (C.J. Mecham), has also enlisted his own brother Henery (Justin Ritter) to pose as George for the same purpose. Obviously, the real George (Michael Roberts) shows up, too, adding to the confusion.
None of the three Georges looks the slightest bit like any of the others, yet everyone still mistakes them for each other. You kind of have to accept that, as you do the extraordinary coincidences inherent in a farce. Also, don’t think too much about the fact that Jean (Shannon Minch) kisses all three of the Georges, yet still can’t tell which one is actually her long-lost husband.
Thorstrom is gently wacky as Aubrey, the much-killed main character, spouting odd plays on words at every turn. (Upon learning of his inheritance: “Have you never had money left you? I have. All my money’s left me.”)
Stealing the show, though, is Andrea Keddington as the daft Aunt Benita. She wobbles and complains hilariously, and while her “Don’t shout, I’m not deaf” joke wears thin after hearing it approximately every eight seconds during the first act, she is still the best thing it the show. It’s a shame Keddington doesn’t have a larger role, as she is a talented actress, and the only one who can do a convincing English accent.
The cast is generally good all the way around, giving professional and consistent performances throughout the show. “Tons of Money” is not the best source material they could have chosen — it’s a rather unimpressive script to begin with — but what they do with it is considerably more than it could have been. And they seem to have so much fun doing it, too, which makes the show just that much more enjoyable.
This was the second production by the Playhouse Youth Guild, whose previous effort, "See How They Run," was quite a charmer. This one wasn't quite as good, despite having the same basic plot (i.e., three people all impersonating the same person and being mistaken for one another). It was graciously short, though, and that Keddington girl really is a hoot to watch.
"Tons of Money" was adapted by Alan Ayckbourn from an earlier script. Ayckbourn is a well-respected British playwright nowadays; I've seen three of his shows ("Henceforward," "Bedroom Farce," "Between Friends"), and been impressed with each one. This one, however, shows signs of laziness. There are some plot holes that you could drive a truck through. I mean, a farce is going to be over-the-top, but it at least needs to make sense within its own little piece of reality, and this one doesn't.