Funny Money: Blending Wit and Absurdity on a Santiago Stage

Riding the Metro during rush-hour can be described in many ways, mostly unsavory. But one auspicious commute home for Ernest and Young accountant Henry Perkins is anything but unsavory in Santiago Stage’s production of “Funny Money.” Directed by Tara Bowker and Maureen Walker, “Funny Money” is a comedy about how one expat couple living in Santiago juggles the consequences of coming into possession with a briefcase filled with money on the Metro, amidst suspicious police, a grisly murder, a dinner party and a much-debated plan for escape.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Kendal Montgomery (see more photos)

The show launches into Henry Perkins’ (Ben Clarke) frenzied plan to escape to Rio. He explains to his wife Jean (Helen Huthnance) that he picked up the wrong briefcase on the Metro on his way home, filled with over seven million dollars. Concluding that the owner of the briefcase will hunt him down, he plans to escape to Rio with Jean and the money. Jean, not wanting to desert her life in Las Condes, refuses to go with him.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Kendal Montgomery

Henry’s perfect plan of escape further unravels as characters, such as friends Vic and Betty (Michael and Bronwen McGee), two separate detectives (Mirentxu Alegria and Carmen Garcia) and a taxi driver, quickly become entangled in different webs of lies, cover-ups, mistaken identities and misunderstandings.

Reminiscent of John Cleese’s 1970’s series “Fawlty Towers,” the humorous mishaps, punchy dialogue and absurdity create a clever comedy that picks up momentum with each misadventure. Written by Ray Cooney and first performed in Kent, England in June 1994, Santiago Stage adapted the script to be set in Santiago and to incorporate humor based on an understanding of living in Chile.

The adaptation process requires input and participation from the cast, hailing from England, Australia, the United States and Chile, to give the dialogue an international appeal to a multinational audience.

“The Canadians laugh at different things than the Australians. The Australians laugh at different things than the British. We have to spend time taking note of these things and figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” explained the show’s producer and Santiago Stage president Zen Delaney.

Since the play hinges on details, it can be slightly difficult for a non-native speaker to follow, but the idea is that characters are just as confused as the audience is. The comedy lies in the confusion.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Kendal Montgomery

The detailed plot is juxtaposed aptly with a simple, one-room set and relatively few props, mostly aggregated by cast members and friends. However, the one-room set works symbiotically with the plot, as characters are shuffled in and out of the kitchen, dining room, and front lawn, which are off stage.

Amidst the chaos of movement onstage and the herding of characters in and out of scenes, the actors manage to give carefully calibrated facial expressions and reactions to the twist and turns of the plot. The cast is composed of amateur and professional actors, who work on a volunteer basis. They meet several times a week to rehearse, but also maintain a strong social aspect to the group, which enhances the cast’s chemistry onstage.

Santiago Stage has been producing English-language plays since 1972. Proceeds from “Funny Money” will go to the Grange School’s theater program, the Bomberos and Coaniquem, an organization for the treatment and rehabilitation of burn victims. The group hopes to put on a Christmas pantomime as their next project.

Santiago Stage is always recruiting new members. A mastery of English is required, but no prior acting experience is necessary. Contact for more details.

“Funny Money”
September 1 to 4, 7:30 pm
The Grange School Theater
Principe de Gales 6154
La Reina
Santiago, Chile

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