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Theater Review: Swift Creek Mill's "Cash on Delivery" Offers Cynical Humor and a Winning Ensemble

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An East Londoner who’s been scamming the British government gets his comeuppance in Michael Cooney’s farce “Cash on Delivery,” running at Swift Creek Mill Theatre.

Secretly unemployed for the past two years, Eric Swan (played by Richard Koch) has been cashing in on falsified disability and welfare claims for his current and former lodgers. On the very day he decides to put an end to all of the lies, he receives a series of visitors from various government agencies.

Some have come to audit Swan’s multiple, highly suspect claims and others to offer support services and even more government money for nonexistent disabilities and deaths that haven’t occurred. The comedy that ensues is one of mistaken identity and slapstick humor — a production that’s fast-paced and fun.

Tom Width’s direction keeps this comedy moving. It’s a high-energy show, active and frantic, with a lot going on in each scene. Yet Width’s direction and thoughtful staging ensure that audiences can see and hear everything at all times, never missing the action.

The talented ensemble cast brings the work to life. These actors nail the comedic timing and physical humor, and they play off of and react to one another so well one might think they’ve all been working together for years. Everyone pulls off believable British accents.

Koch is a delight as scheming landlord Swan, and Kenneth Putnam steals every scene as the upstairs tenant and reluctant accomplice, Norman McDonald. Koch and Putnam prove masters of physical comedy in this show, and some of the best comedic moments take place between these two characters as they struggle to keep their stories straight.

Other notable performances include Mike White as Swan’s devious and elderly Uncle George, Vicki McLeod as Mrs. Swan, ignorant of her husband’s shenanigans but aware that he’s up to something, and Nancy Kent Collie and Chandler Hubbard as social workers who arrive at the Swan household, creating mayhem.

The sets at Swift Creek Mill are always interesting and highly detailed, and this production doesn’t disappoint. But there are moments when the set itself is a distraction — someone slams a door and the lights on the wall flicker, leaving the audience to wonder whether it’s intentional.

The humor is silly but smart. Expect wordplay in addition to the gleeful schadenfreude of watching characters juggle lies and shifting identities, as well as the wild physical antics. The play avoids moral judgments, placing the emphasis on the situational humor more than any social commentary one might expect from a play about defrauding the government. The tone is light and, at most, a bit cynical. But that’s all part of the fun. S

Swift Creek Mill’s “Cash on Delivery” runs until June 24. Tickets cost $38. swiftcreekmill.com.

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