Hank Aaron once said, “It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”
In David Wiltse’s hysterical comedy about the overheated worlds of golf, golf magazines and corporate takeovers, you will get in your 3,000 laughs before intermission. Wiltse is the author of 12 novels and the winner of the Drama Desk Award. This is his 11th play.
“Hatchetman” is the story of a small golf magazine called Putts in the midst of a rumored corporate takeover. Audience members who have spent time in an office and experienced corporate politics and rumor-mongering will easily identify with the psychosis here.
This People’s Light production features a spectacular pinpoint-perfect cast that plunges into this riotous farce in the true spirit of Feydeau, Ayckbourn, Cooney and Frayn.
Under the sure-handed direction of Steve Umberger, the marvelous ensemble makes the difficult look easy with its wicked sense of humor and an inventive knack for geometry. This sizzler has everything — slamming doors, scantily clad women, lots of physical comedy, mistaken identities, double entendres and frenetic pacing. It takes paranoia and office hysteria to the limit and I just loved it!
In the play, the golf magazine where all the characters work has been sold. Heads will probably be rolling soon, and the employees have reason to believe there is a spy among them, taking notes for a report on who should stay and who should go.
“Hatchetman” starts out in hysteria and builds to a solidly funny second act. What makes this farce really cook is a through-line of truth even in the most frantic and ridiculous of situations. That truth quickly materializes in the first act.
The play is loaded with physical comedy and general slapstick. There are several sneezing attacks, one demonstration of bizarre bird-mating sounds and a loud clattering as things fall and crash in the office’s storage room.
Each character has a singular purpose and comic tic. There’s curvaceous writer Temple (Mary McCool), who is allergic to flowers; hack co-worker Carter (Pete Pryor), an editor with no apparent skills but procrastination and womanizing, who is perpetually lusting after Temple; plain Jane (Julia Stroup), who gets chronically tongue-tied around Carter and office hanger-on Otis (Tom Teti), who can never find the right word, but whose “memory by association” is drop-dead funny.
Into this group comes new employee Johnson (Andrew Kane), a forlorn individual with a stammer that’s only alleviated when he goes into song. Topping off this dysfunctional crew is the office manager, Sam (Mary Elizabeth Scallen), a sexual Venus fly-trap who has her eyes and claws set on Carter. The second-act 9 p.m. rendezvous back at the office turns into delightful mayhem.
Director Umberger has obviously found the elixir, that magic formula that works to perfection here. Each member of the ensemble has perfectly sketched his or her character type; the satire is impeccable. If you enjoy facial expressions as much as I do, this is a tour de farce.
Meticulous production elements have long been People’s Light forte, so it comes as no surprise that Marla Jurglanis’ eye-catching costume designs, James Pyne’s set creation and Dennis Parichy’s skillful lighting handsomely illuminate the proceedings here.
Pyne’s brightly colored set of two adjoining offices provides a tempting arena for farce. Connecting closets filled with assorted junk become a hiding place, an escape alley and an orgy palace. You’ll enjoy the golf course carpet replete with sand trap and rough.
There are no deep-seated philosophical meanings here, no high-minded socially redeeming values to hang your hat onto, just gut-busting, side-splitting laughter. As the saying goes, dying is easy, but comedy is hard. Add to the equation that farce is even harder.
I made the mistake of holding back and my stomach ached for hours afterwards. When you go, just dive in; enjoy the fun from start to finish — that is what this sexy, zany farce is all about. Put this one in the “not to be missed” category.
at People’s Light & Theatre Co.,
39 Conestoga Road,
Malvern, PA, 19355,
through July 17. There are 10
Tickets: $25 - $45.
Info: 610-644-3500 or