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‘Black Comedy’ an ode to the farce genre

Back row: Ed Hein; middle row: Kenneth Ansloan, Rikki Carroll, Rick Huff, Margie Maes, Jessica Osbourne, Bradd Howard; front row: Weston Simons in “Black Comedy.”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Say “farce,” and most of us conjure slamming doors and horseplay set amid ludicrously improbable circumstances.

Before penning the classic hits “Equus” and “Amadeus,” Peter Shaffer wrote “Black Comedy,” his darkened ode to the genre.

The West End Theatre will open 2020 with the play at the North Fourth Art Center, beginning on Friday, Jan. 24. It runs weekends through Feb. 9.

Fittingly, “Black Comedy” opens on a dark stage.

A few minutes later, a short circuit illuminates it all to expose the characters in a “blackout.”

Director Colleen Neary McClure absorbed the farce as a young actor touring England with the play.

“We went all over England with it,” said McClure, who hails from Kent. “In my 20s, I understudied all the female roles and was assistant stage manager and props manager.”

Lovesick and desperate, the young sculptor Brindsley and his debutante fiancĂ©e Carol have spruced up his apartment with furniture and objects d’art “borrowed” from Harold, the antique collector next door.

Harold is away for the weekend.

The pair are hoping to impress Carol’s pompous father, as well as a wealthy art dealer coming to view Brindsley’s work.

Then a power failure plunges it all into darkness. Harold returns early and Brindsley’s former mistress appears, as the scene tumbles into disaster.

Brindsley must somehow move the furniture back in the dark without Harold’s knowledge.

“It just makes me laugh so much,” McClure said. “The message is mildly serious: Don’t pretend you’re something you’re not. Even though the characters are extremely flawed, you can’t help but love them.”

The actors must trip over furniture and bump into one another, blinded by the dark.

“The most challenging part is they can’t look at each other,” McClure said. “They’re supposed to be in the dark.”

“It’s amusing and most of the comedy comes from the physical comedy of Brindsley and, of course, the fact that they can’t see each other,” she added.

The United Kingdom’s National Theatre commissioned Shaffer to write the one-act play in 1965, where it opened at London’s Old Vic. West End Productions focuses exclusively on plays from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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