Jeff Sproul and James Patrick Cronin in "Poppycock"

Just what did you expect for nothing? Rubber biscuit?

A guy walks into a bar and says “ouch!” No wait. I told that wrong. A man and a woman walk into a derelict bed and breakfast carrying the woman’s catatonic sister. This is the last night the bed and breakfast will be in business because an unscrupulous Richie Rich, a real Snidely Whiplash, is about to repossess it from its humble bumbling owner. And then they say “ouch.”

Poppycock: A Modern-Day Farce at Under St. Mark’s Theater from now until April 24th is roughly an hour and a half of non-stop gags, jokes, tom-foolery, one-liners, puns, witty repartee, and monkeyshines. It’s like Monkey Business meets Fawlty Towers envisioned as a live-action Tex Avery cartoon (like Malcolm in the Middle). I laughed through the whole thing.

No one is what they seem to be at first: Barney Crump, the villain, is really the victim of the B&B owner, Frederick Theodore Pool’s, teenage treachery. The catatonic sister isn’t really catatonic; she just acts that way to give her high strung sister something to obsess over. Even Barney’s long lost crush, who reappears in the last scene, isn’t exactly what she seems to be. This is a gift to the actors, particularly Daiva Deupree who plays the mystery lady of scene 4, as it gives them a chance to showcase their versatility and craft. Mr. Mather also did a good job directing actors in their rapid fire dialogue. Precise timing — essential to all jokes — is impeccable in Poppycock.

The writer/director Jeremy Mather lets you know in the title what you’ll get for the price of admission. This is a farce: the plot is more contrived than the storyline of All My Children, the characters are, well, real characters, and there are a lot of poop jokes. My favorite is a pun on the title character’s name: Poppy Gaiser. (I’ll let you figure it out.) Puns are the dominant form of joke in the play. Mr. Mather loves wordplay, so much that I don’t think there is a single line that doesn’t have at least one clench, quibble, or double entendre. In Mr. Mather’s hands the humble pun — frequently derided as the lowest form of humor — is oftentimes hilarious (if occasionally strained). But if you’re the kind of person who thinks a “homophone” is a gay chat line, you’ll definitely get your rocks off with Poppycock.

Now I bet you’re wondering, who gets the girl? Find out at Under St. Marks, from now until April 24th.

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