Don’t be fooled by the deceptively dry title of Salt Lake Acting Company’s latest production. Yes, the title of SLAC playwright-in-residence Kathleen Cahill’s play—ostensibly about a scientist in the desert lecturing on the origins of life—may sound like an academic snoozefest. But it’s actually a rollicking comic farce, and one of the most entertaining shows to come down the pike this season.
Paleontologist Stevie Stuart (Colleen Baum) is a coelacanth out of water when she arrives in central Utah for a teaching gig at Delta Community College. It’s a far cry from the hallowed halls of Harvard; there she finds not so much a town as a dirt road, some rocks and quirky local characters.
Dell Nelson (Elise Groves) is a student in Stevie’s course. Dell’s dress and demeanor suggest a fundamentalist upbringing, yet the young woman reveals hidden talents. Groves is wonderfully charming, and hits just the right note in bringing off the character’s naÃ¯ve certitude. When the college inexplicably designates Stevie’s class as “soft science,” Dell cheerfully explains that it’s all for the best, since hard science is too hard.
Topher Rasmussen not only figuratively chews the scenery as missing link Sterling Jensen; sometimes he literally chews the props. Rasmussen brings a fierce energy to the challenging role. Daniel Beecher maintains a forceful onstage presence as Stevie’s philandering husband, Bill; their relationship is complex, and unwinds in an unexpected way.
The show’s indescribable climactic scene had the audience rolling in the aisles. Beautifully produced, Course 86b is absolutely required.
COURSE 86B IN THE CATALOGUE
Salt Lake Acting Company
168 W. 500 North
Through May 6