Losing Father’s Body, Next Theatre Company.

It’s too bad that 90 percent of the laughs in Constance Congdon’s dark suburban comedy arrive in the second act. Just when her spare, staccato dialogue has become unbearably grating, just when her cartoonish caricatures of mourning Waspy ninnies has gotten too obvious for words, just when she’s made the same point for the umpteenth time about anxiety-ridden, pill-popping neat freaks who’d do anything to conceal their emotions, Congdon confounds us by making her play funny.

For much of the first act we’re stuck with Kim and Scott, two hypereducated, ultrasuccessful emotional messes who are trying desperately to conceal their grief over their father’s death and to protect their devastated mother from finding out that somehow, en route to the funeral, the car containing her husband’s casket was stolen. A little bit of their fidgety-smoking, panicked Air-Wick-spraying, denial-drenched conversation goes a long way, especially as neurotically directed by Sarah Tucker at Next Theatre: Marguerite Hammersley and Tim Decker are so over the top they could drive one up the wall.

When Scott and Kim finally give the stage over to their quietly grieving mother (a wonderfully subtle performance by Maureen Gallagher), their grumbling, racist Uncle Cecil (a gleeful show-stealing turn by John Dunleavy), a bizarre menagerie of friends and neighbors, and the Native American couple who accidentally hijacked the missing casket, Losing Father’s Body crackles with comic invention. The play’s final image, a hastily arranged funeral, is both witty and profound. I smell a sparkling one-act play that was stretched into a two-acter for commercial reasons.