Comedy of Errors, Noises Off, Lend Me a Tenor, The Foreigner, One Man, Two Guvnors, and What the Bellhop Saw.
What do they have in common? Slamming doors, mixed up lovers, characters in embarrassing situations — in forms of undress.
This is farce.
Although we might not know it, farce is everywhere. From the stage to the screen — in movies like What’s Up, Doc? — and even at home on our televisions. Just look at your favorite Tom and Jerry or Arrested Development episode. Even if these aren’t classified completely as farce. They at least utilize some of its characteristics.
So what is a farce?
Here are some of the attributes:
1. Farces often focus on a transgression or a character’s urge to hide something and the shenanigans that result from that character’s choice.
2. Farces usually use one setting, often with lots of hiding spaces (doors, windows, closets, fire escapes — you name it, it’s used.)
3. Farces are very objective-driven. Characters choose a course of action quickly and follow it throughout the rest of the play. No matter how ridiculous.
4. Farces are fast-paced and high-energy.
5. They often include quick and witty exchanges of dialogue. Also heightened actions and lots of physical comedy.
6. The characters always find themselves in outlandish situations.
What the Bellhop Saw is a true farce, written in 1985 by Billy Van Zandt. The play is full of pleasant mayhem as characters hide, look for, and escape from others through slammed doors and rickety fire escapes. By the end, you’ll be dizzy from all of the action, and you’ll never believe the predicaments the characters end up in. What will happen when a bellhop tries to help his brother land his unrequited love? What about if he secretly puts him up in a hotel room the CIA is using to hide a controversial author from an angered terrorist? Sound ridiculous? How about fun?
Let’s be honest… Who doesn’t love farce?