If you get a chance to see the Studio Players’ production of the farce Out of Order, which begins its three-week run this weekend, there’s a good chance you’ll be belly-laughing. But the play’s director, Timothy Hull, said that for all the absurdity of the play’s numerous comedic moments, there’s a lot of calculation involved.
“There’s a lot less wiggle room in comedy,” Hull said. “Things have to be really clear and precise and exact. Ironically, it’s a little more intellectual.”
It’s the smarts behind the silliness that has become a hallmark of playwright Ray Cooney, who has written numerous acclaimed comedies that have become hit productions performed on London’s West End over his long career. Out of Order, which won the 1991 Olivier Award for best comedy, begins with junior minister of Parliament Richard Willey (Jason Meenach) heading to a tryst with the prime minister’s secretary, Jane Worthington (Megan Mooney), at a fancy London hotel. But when the couple inconveniently discover a dead body inextricably lodged in the suite’s window, other people get involved, and things go downhill hilariously fast.
“It’s got interesting characters, fast-paced dialogue, all kinds of really funny situations and lines,” Hull said. “It’s got all kinds of situations in which whatever the worst possible thing to happen in that moment ... happens.”
Hull said his first exposure to Cooney’s work was in college, when he played the lead in Out of Order while participating in a summer theatre program at Western Kentucky University.
“There are just some characters and moments that are just among the funniest things I’ve ever seen or done on stage,” he said. “Really, that’s just why it’s stuck in my mind all these years.”
Hull has appeared in several Studio Players productions as an actor, but this is his first time as a director since he was an undergrad. He said the responsibility is equally intense and enjoyable, but he really likes rehearsing and just watching the cast run with the material.
“The most enjoyable part is seeing all of the actors developing their characters and developing their relationships and coming up with their own comic business,” he said. “I just love seeing what they come up with.”
Hull said he thinks of the mixed experience he has had portraying comedic roles himself. In this comedy, he said, he thinks the material and the actors will get the reaction he’s looking for.
“In comedy, they (the audience) have to laugh ... no matter what. And I’ve certainly had nights where they weren’t laughing. It’s not fun,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m certain people will laugh and I’m certain it will be relatively big laughs as well.”