‘Beyond a Joke’ has plenty of them

Island Players Beyond a Joke
Jeffrey Steiger, as Geoff (center), appears to be confused about the safety of the refreshments being served as Sylvia Marnie, as Jane (left), pours for Peter Ruscoe, as Edgar, and Heiko Knipfelberg, as Andrew, pours coffee for Judi King as Audrey. - Tom Vaught | Sun

ANNA MARIA – If you’ve been to Island Players performances more than once lately, you will notice they generally start out the same way. The director gets up and talks about the play and he or she asks everyone to disarm their cell phones. They demonstrate where the exits are in case of fire or other perils, and then they suggest the cast could reconvene at Bortell’s Lounge, the sponsor for this performance, for a drink if the first responders have to be called in.

In “Beyond a Joke,” by Derek Benfield, director James Thaggard lets Daniel Coppinger, who plays the Vicar, do that job in a holy way, saying, “Blessed are those who shut off their cell phones; blessed are those who use the escape routes in times of peril,” and so on.

Another surprise is the set for the play. Designer Jan Van Wart divided the stage in half with an interior on the left and an outdoors garden wall on the right. The interior is raised about a foot.

Island Players hold tryout

The Island Players are holding a second tryout for “The Curious Savage,” by John Patrick, on Sunday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Island Players Theatre, 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. The play runs March 8-21 and Kelly Wynn Woodland is the director. For more information, call Diane Phinney at 941-405-4759.

As for the play, Thaggard had them ready, and the initial performance was flawless.

This British farce was blessed by a cast that spoke with good, believable accents. In fact, the only cast member who normally speaks with an accent is Sylvia Marnie.

This play is very funny. The home’s owners, Jane and Andrew, played by Marnie and Heiko Knipfelberg, and their daughter, Sally, played by an effervescent Sarah Klipper, know that six people have died accidentally in their house. It is something that they want to keep from Sally’s visiting boyfriend, Geoff, played by Jeffrey Steiger. He plays his role as someone who tunes in and out of what’s occurring, somewhat like Dustin Hoffman in the 1988 movie “Rain Man.”

Andrew’s sister, Sarah, played by Caroline Cox, knows about the deaths and plays along until they find a body. Later, there is another death, and it leads to more mayhem when Geoff’s parents, Audrey, played by Judi King, and Edgar, played by Peter Ruscoe, show up. We won’t divulge any more of the play – you’ll have to see it for yourself. If you do, you’ll find it is well worth the $20 ticket.

“Beyond a Joke” is a must-see for fans of British humor or visitors from the United Kingdom. For the rest of us, it’s just plain funny.

“Beyond a Joke” plays six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, through Jan. 28. Tickets are available by calling 941-778-5755.

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