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Cash on Delivery

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CASH ON DELIVERY, Village Players Theatre. Where Joe Orton used the sex farce to attack the mores of a hung-up, fearful, hypocritical society, fellow Brit Michael Cooney uses the same genre to reinforce middle-class prejudices about those who stray too far from the norm. In this 1996 play about a welfare cheat, he pokes fun at transvestites, undertakers, women with PMS, and officious office workers. But he never comments on the inequities and corruption of the class structure the way another writer of farce, Dario Fo, would.

Even this socially conservative brand of comedy can be funny, however, if it's performed by a company that's handy with the machinery of farce. But the Village Players, misdirected by Lisa Pearson, hardly know how to start the engine, much less negotiate a plot's tight twists and insane turns. Fumbling their way through Cooney's script, the actors deliver some punch lines too loudly and exude buckets of flop sweat while desperately trying to wring a laugh or two from the mostly silent audience. Even more damaging, the performers don't really react to one another but merely shoot their lines, then wait to deliver the next one.

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