What's a junior minister in the British government to do when a dead body winds up in the window of his London hotel room? That's the question, and the comedy, at the center of "Out of Order," which opens at Breckenridge's Backstage Theatre tonight and runs through March 23. "Out of Order," which might be described as Monty Python meets "Weekend at Bernie's," won the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy during its original run in London's West End. Written by Ray Cooney, author of 17 plays (most notably "Run for Your Wife" and "Funny Money"), the play is considered one of the funniest of the great British farces. In keeping with the genre, there are myriad misunderstandings - lots of doors opening and closing - and a harried government official named Richard Willey struggling, quite literally, to keep a skeleton in his closet. When he enlists the support of a young assistant named George, the madcap only multiplies. George is played with goofy gusto by Eric Mather, who played Rick in the Backstage's hit production of "The Nerd" a few summers back. To complicate matters for Mr. Willey, there's a prying hotel manager, a chamber maid who doesn't understand the meaning of "do not disturb," a love-interest named Jane (described as an "attractive but dizzy young lady") and her jealous husband out for Willey's head. Onstage, actor Raja Salaymeh (as Willey) describes the play's action as a "ventriloquist act with a dead body." Offstage, Salaymeh (whose wife Cathy is also a cast member) calls "Out of Order" a "fun show" to perform - one that he has starred in twice before, first in Indianapolis and later at the Union Colony Dinner Theatre in Greeley.Christopher Willard, artistic director of the Backstage Theatre, echoes Salaymeh's enthusiasm. He calls "Out of Order" the "best, most tightly structured farce out there," and one that has been on his radar for some time. He added that the current production was created specifically for the Backstage. With auditions in Breckenridge and Denver, Willard says they've gathered a "first-rate cast" with director Seth Caikowski, also a veteran of the Union Colony. While rehearsing the show in Denver, there was lots of clowning around among the 10 cast members, a sure sign of a cohesive cast that likes to bring the laughs. A comic actor himself, and alumnus of "The Full Monty," Caikowski gave his actors meticulous direction following rehearsal. "Physical comedy means literally throwing your body into it," he told them. "It's all or nothing." Cooney's comedy puts the "stiff" in that stiff upper lip characteristic of the British character, and like the Westminster Hotel in which his farce unfolds, "Out of Order" is a four-star affair.
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