FUNNY MONEY, Drury Lane Theatre Evergreen Park. Joe Orton may have modernized the British sex farce, adding just enough wicked Aristophanic wit to make the form subversive. But it was Orton’s tamer countryman, Ray Cooney, who really raked in the farce dough. Playing Benny Hill to Orton’s Monty Python, Cooney always pandered to his middle-aged, middle-class Brit and American tourist audience: in his plays money is sacred, sex is something to snicker at, the appearance of propriety is everything, and if the plot involves a beautiful young woman, chances are she’ll be nearly nude and cowering in a closet or on a window ledge before the play’s end.
Funny Money hits most of the standard Cooney bases. Though there’s no naked bimbo in the closet, there is a suitcase full of ill-gotten gains, a proper businessman trying to hide a shameful secret, and a houseful of people utterly, and sometimes hilariously, tangled in the web of deceit Cooney’s hero spins as he tries to flee the country.
The play is not one of Cooney’s best. The hero’s wife’s reluctance to leave her dreary suburban life is funny at first and jump-starts the plot, but her obsession grows tiresome after a while. Still, David Mink’s staging is entertaining, with a spritely tempo that madly accelerates and a cast of capable comic actors. James Harms is especially fine as a stuffy police inspector with a secret fondness for bribery.