“Funny Money” opens at Bend playhouse

Zany story revolves around briefcase full of money

By David Jasper / The Bulletin

If you go

What: “Funny Money”

When: Opens at 7:30 tonight with additional shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through March 29

Where: Greenwood Playhouse, 148 N.W. Greenwood Ave., Bend

Cost: $19, $15 seniors, $12 students

Contact: www.cascadestheatrical.org or 541-389-0803

The briefcase full of money has to be one of the most tried and true plot devices in storytelling, and for good enough reason: What else so small, portable and nondescript has so much potential to change one’s life for the better?

It’s a miracle people aren’t stealing briefcases left and right.

Sure, you could work your tail off at medical school or earn a law degree while racking up some serious debt and missing a lot of awesome YouTube videos en route to a high-paying career.

If you have tenacious tech talents, you might develop an app so critical to the betterment of humanity — or at least to the betterment of sending messages to people — that Mark Zuckerberg would be inclined to buy it for $19 billion.

If you have the looks, brains and talent (or one of those things), you could marry someone filthy rich. But before the ink on the pre-nup dried, you’d be well on your way to spending the rest of your life paying for it.

I don’t know about you, but all of those options sound like a lot of work to me.

What if fate simply handed you a briefcase full of money — that is, if some foolish ne’er-do-well accidentally confused your worthless briefcase for his?

Bear in mind, his briefcase is valued at 735,000 pounds, because that’s how much money is in it. (That’s a little less than $1.25 million in U.S. dollars, according to Google.) Wouldn’t you be a fool not to hang on for dear life?

And if you figured correctly that whoever used to have that a briefcase full of money was probably up to something nasty, wouldn’t you quickly arrange for a pair of plane tickets for you and your wife?

That’s the premise that sets the madcap plot of “Funny Money” on its wacky trajectory. Cascades Theatrical Co.’s production of the 1995 comedy by British playwright Ray Cooney opens tonight at Greenwood Playhouse in Bend (see “If you go”)

Low-profile, run-of-the-mill accountant Henry Perkins — played by Tom Kelley, whose role is one of the play’s most demanding — comes home late from work one day. He immediately calls for a cab and two one-way airline tickets, or “singles,” because the Brits are always fouling up English. However, to be fair, they have all the best insults, and you’ll hear a few of them in “Funny Money.”

Their destination: Anywhere in continental Europe that they won’t need more than a passport to get to.

He does all this without a peep of explantion to his increasingly panic-stricken wife, Jean (Rebecca Singer), who busily murmurs objections: Their dinner guests will be there any minute!

That would be Betty and Vic Johnson (Janis Sharpe and Bill Casler), but first comes Sgt. Davenport (Craig S. Simi), a detective who grew suspicious of Henry back in the pub where Henry went in the bathroom, or loo, a few times to count the cash.

Henry breaks it all down for his wife, who’s dead set against canceling dinner, going to Barcelona and keeping the money. That’s stealing, after all.

But Henry’s not daft. He’s been handed a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and reasons that Mr. Nasty, as they take to calling the presumed criminal whose briefcase is now in Henry’s possession, was probably going to use it for something illicit, therefore the money is probably not on any books.

“This money is money that doesn’t exist,” Henry concludes. “And if it doesn’t exist, I can’t have stolen it.”

Sounds reasonable to me, but then I like YouTube videos. Try telling that to the succession of people who stop by, including another detective, Slater (Will Futterman), who’s a bit more of a straight-shooter than Davenport, if not quite as much fun.

What ensues is an old-fashioned blend of lies, mistaken identities, bribery, briefcase swapping and, possibly, partner swapping, since Betty Johnson is more game than Jean to go to Barcelona and live the good life.

But they’d better hurry: Someone with a heavy accent keeps ringing on the telly inquiring about a “brefkes.”

Henry is fortunate in more ways than one during the evening in question. Even the cabbie (Ethan Antram) is hoping to help Henry see his plan succeed — somehow, in spite of all the zaniness. Who doesn’t want to see the little guy win for once?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going briefcase hunting.

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com