Pleading Stupidity, the latest show from Maybe You Like It Productions, is a farcical tale of juvenile ignorance and boyish impulse. Over 50 minutes, writer and director Caleb Barron tells the story of Chad and Brad, two Aussies on a gap-year. Desperate for some excitement, the two rob a bank in the small ski town of Vail, Colorado armed with BB guns, ski masks – and their name tags from work. The two are arrested and, in an effort to avoid a severe prison sentence, are now pleading stupidity before the judge.
As this brief synopsis should make clear, this is not a play that takes itself too seriously. That being said, there were some seriously impressive performances from the cast. James Akka and Barney Newman played Chad and Brad respectively. They both delivered strong individual performances which brimmed with manic energy. But it was their scenes together which were most enjoyable. The two played off each other very well to deliver some fabulous one-liners and physical comedy. The two also played the roles of local Colorado police officers who turned out to be delightfully absurd caricatures.
The remaining cast comprised Ellie Cooper and Gemma Daubeney. The two played a huge variety of roles, and their ability to transition so frequently between various characters is worthy of praise. From obnoxious FBI agents and aged taxi drivers to terrified bank-tellers and exasperated legal counsel, the two provoked laughter with some bizarre and zany characters whilst also acting as foils for Chad and Brad. In particular, the utterly sensible and perplexed bank-tellers and Cooper’s increasingly infuriated prosecutor contrasted well with the childish foolishness of the two Aussies.
Props were few in number but were put to great comic use. In particular, the detachable moustaches worn by Akka and Newman when playing the police were hilarious – especially when coupled with a thick New York accent and a half-eaten donut. The staging itself was minimal. A witness box was constantly being whisked across the stage, becoming a bank desk, an airport check-in and a row of shops at various points. This contributed well to the high-energy, slightly chaotic but ultimately well-crafted atmosphere of the performance.
One of the play’s weaker aspects was the plot. At points, the story seemed threadbare and relied heavily on strong cast performances and one-liners. I would have liked to see a little more fleshing out of Brad and Chad’s characters. We saw very brief hints of difference and genuine conflict between the two. The play ends with a fade to black as Chad attempts to call Brad but Brad does not pick up his call. Brad apparently feels abandoned by Chad, who has prioritised a book-deal about their escapades over picking his friend up from the airport when he got out of prison. This surprisingly sombre ending does jar slightly with the silliness of the rest of the play.
Overall, however, this was a superb show which is bound to make you smile. The sense of fun was palpable – even the cast struggled to keep a straight face at various points. This is not a play that hammers home a serious message. At its heart, Pleading Stupidity, is perfectly content to bring a bit of revelry and light-heartedness to an otherwise cold and wintry evening.