British farce, ‘What’s All This, Then?,’ is the cat’s meow

“What’s All This, Then?” is a witty British farce now playing at The Black Box Theatre at McHenry County College.

The play is written by Chicago playwright Bill Daniel, who has a vast literary talent. This may be the first time you’ve heard his name, but it will not be the last.

Director Jay Geller is a master at pulling compelling performances from his actors, and “What’s All This, Then?” is proof of this. His young cast is simply delightful in this comedy caper piece of entertainment.

The play takes place in a small police precinct in Croydon, South London, where we meet green-under-the-gills Constable Madge Barker, her inept colleague Constable Simone Blockley and Detective Inspector Rhys Butterworth – a walking, talking example of utter buffoonery.

These would-be keystone cops are faced with an usual crime spree: all the cats in town are disappearing.

Respectively, Sydney Adkins and Amanda Haugk play Madge and Simone to perfection. They have the audience in stiches from the opening dialog and the ride doesn’t slow down until the finale.

Jake Seelye as the Detective Inspector is in his element, providing great comic relief via an endless parade of physical comedy moments.

We next meet Polly, the heiress to the Fancy Feast cat food empire who might not be all she seems to be. She is played skillfully by Emma Ambrosia.

Enter Leslie “Twist” Topp – a reporter with an uncanny knowledge of the kitty cat crimes at hand. As Topp, Gianah Tomczak is both poised and ridiculous as the moments of the play call for. She is a delight to watch.

And, finally, we are introduced to the 10-year-old mayor of the town, Lucinda Connington-Darby – played by a delightfully mature Ruth Graham, who holds her own with the adult cast members.

The play is well-paced and has a bit of everything to keep the ball rolling. Of note, there is a dream dance sequence that is so creative and unexpected, it is the highlight of the show. Credit choreographer Maggie McCord.

Set design by Chris Gray is excellent, as is costume design by Kathy Brunhke.

Presented without an intermission, “What’s All This, Then?” is a wonderful piece of entertainment from a very talented up-and-coming playwright, presented by a gifted cast under the direction of a skillful artistic staff. So, get your tickets now.

“What’s All This, Then?” plays at 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through March 21 at The Black Box Theatre at McHenry County College, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake. Tickets are $10 for students, MCC employees, seniors, veterans and alumni or $15 for the general public. There is ample free parking.

• Rikki Lee Travolta has headlined and directed theatrical productions around the country. He has written two novels and a memoir, all revolving around the entertainment world. He currently hosts a weekly radio program, “It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee,” every Friday at 3 p.m. on 101.5 FM. Rikki Lee also is the founder of It’s Showtime Theatre of Huntley and continues to serve on the advisory committee. For information, visit

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