Fun with farce

I’m a relative rookie when it comes to the “farce” genre in theater — only recently enjoying my first live experience with the art thanks to Phoenix Theatre’s “Noises Off.” I hadn’t expected to enjoy the form, but now find myself becoming a bit of a farce fanatic.

Whether you’re a farce fan or merely farce-curious, this weekend presents a rare opportunity to enjoy farce at its finest — the Flaherty and Ahrens musical called “Lucky Stiff.” It’s a murder mystery based on the novel “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.”

“Lucky Stiff” is being performed this weekend at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale by students from Arizona School for the Arts (ASA).

It’s a real high school musical, directed by Toby Yatso, an artist in residence with Phoenix Theatre who leads the ASA theatre arts team.

I’ll be there all weekend in true stage mom mode — hoofing tickets and hocking candy. My daughter Lizabeth has been hush hush about the show, so I’ve had to do a bit of my own research. Here’s what I know…

It’s the work of the award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, whose other collaborations include “Seussical” and “Ragtime.” It’s got a dog, a dead body and hidden diamonds — plus a wheelchair and a heart-shaped box with surprising contents.

There’s stiff competition in Valley theater this weekend as the Herberger Theater Center reopens to reveal remarkable renovations, The Black Theatre Troupe presents the Tony Award winning August Wilson play titled “Fences” and the Broadway touring production of “Young Frankenstein” plays at ASU Gammage.

“Lucky Stiff” is recommended for ages 12 and up, so that’ll make theater-going decisions easier for parents of preschoolers to preteens. Your choices are equally appealing as Childsplay presents “A Year With Frog and Toad” at Tempe Center for the Arts and Valley Youth Theater opens their production of “Pinkalicious” (both based on children’s literature).

I narrowly missed the opportunity to see “The Ice Pirates” presented by the Dobson Drama Club at Dobson High School in Mesa this weekend. I only learned of the show when I stumbled on a flyer while Jennifer and I were looking for a “STAND Up 4 Africa” event held there on Saturday.

It looks like I’ll have other opportunities — since Dobson High School has upcoming productions that include “Friday Night Live” (Dec 17) and “The Breakfast Club” (Jan, 2011). And I do hope other schools will drop me a line to let me know their offerings.

Attending school and community theater events featuring the Valley’s many talented youth is a truly enjoyable and economical way to experience theater productions you might not encounter at other venues — and to support youth in our community who engage in positive, creative activities in the face (and farce) of so many competing and crass alternatives.

– Lynn

Note: Click here or go to Brown Paper Tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com to purchase tickets to “Lucky Stiff.” For a comprehensive listing of family-friendly theater and other activities, visit the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Next up at Greasepaint Youtheatre is their production of “The Wiz” directed by D. Scott Withers.

Coming up: A marathon of movie reviews, Monsters among us, Getting to know you: Gammage goers

Update: Soon after posting, I learned of another comedic piece coming to a Valley stage (this one is for mature audiences). It’s a “comedic vaudeville” work titled “Romantic Fools” being presented by Chandler-Gilbert Community College Oct 14-17. For tickets call 480-732-7343 or go online. Theater Works opens “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” also a comedy, on Oct 1 at Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets call 623-815-7930 or go online.

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