BWW Reviews: Chaos Reigns in ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS (Circle Theatre)
After being fired from a skiffle band, Francis Henshall struggles to make ends meet by taking on the employ of two different bosses, neither of whom is aware of the other. Ruled by his baser natures, his struggles to fulfill his need for food, for sexy bookkeeper Dolly, and just to save his own skin, rule this hilarious and chaotic comedy.
One Man Two Guvnors is Richard Bean's adaptation of "The Servant of Two Masters" by Carlo Goldoni, a 1745 Italian play written in the commedia dell'arte style. Don't know what commedia dell'arte is? No problem, Francis will explain it to you in detail!
The show opens on 1960's Britain in the seaside holiday town of Brighton, gone slightly to seed, and we are introduced to the Dangles and the Clenches, two families about to join in marriage Alan (Brian Alford), an overdramatic thespian, and Pauline (Marisa Purcey), a senseless but beautiful girl, once engaged to Roscoe Crabbe, who had been murdered. We move from backstory to action quickly as the focus turns to the adventures of Francis Henshall (Dylan Harris), who arrives shortly after with the presumed-dead Roscoe (Chelsea Pummill), who is actually Rachel, his twin sister, in disguise.
Rachel is looking to make a quick buck for an escape with her criminal fiancé, Stanley (Torrence O'Haire), who did, in fact, kill her twin brother. Francis, looking to make a quick buck himself, takes on the employment of both Rachel and Stanley, who are unaware of each other, and who Francis, unaware of Rachel's true identity, does his best to keep from discovering each other. Confused yet? We've barely gotten started!
The tale reaches an out-of-control spiral in the famous scene where Francis attempts to serve two dinners simultaneously, bouncing between his two guvnors like a ping-pong ball and attempting to steal half their meal for himself. The show goes heavy on classical pantomime, farce and physical comedy, audience is pulled in via musical and improvisational interaction, and it will leave you clutching your sides with running jokes like the differences between identical and fraternal twins, and Rachel and Stanley's dismay at being expelled to Australia and "a terrible outdoorsie life, sustained by lager, barbecues and opera."
One Man Two Guvnors makes enormous physical demands of its cast. Francis somersaults, runs, jumps, and engages in an acrobatic and energetic performance which holds all the pieces of the story together. A scene in which he argues with and then proceeds to fight himself to the point of unconsciousness, is particularly impressive. Jason deJager is also spectacularly funny, putting on the supporting performance of the year with his octogenarian waitor, Alfie. Just when you think the poor old man, whose shaking hands clatter the dishes, who gets thrown backwards by an opening door, whoops with glee as he rides piggyback on Francis, and who falls backwards down the stairs, can go no further, they build on his comical wretchedness, and he is set spinning and leaping by his pacemaker set to the wrong speed. Brian Alford as the preening, over-the-top actor, Marisa Pursey as his dim-witted lover, and Catie Berg as the sexy secretary, are also incredibly fun to watch as they take their caricatures to extremes.
The secret to an excellent comedy is the artistic freedom released within the disciplined structure of the script, and One Man Two Guvnors has it all: a tightly designed and controlled plot, explosive energy shuttling the audience from scene to scene, and the hilarious question of Francis's plight, is a good meal and a sexy girl really too much to ask?
Written by Richard Bean; Directed by Todd Avery with Assistant Director Caroline Cahoon. Presented by Circle Theatre at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center, 1607 Robinson Rd SE in Grand Rapids; Tickets (616) 456-6656 or www.circletheatre.org. Running through July 26th; Curtain for performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30PM. Sunday performances begin at 5:00PM.
Brian Alford (Alan Dangle), Catie Berg (Dolly), Geoffrey Bryan (Lloyd Boateng), Jason DeJager (Alfie/Band Member), Mike Dodge (Harry Dangle), Dylan Harris (Francis Henshall), Patrick MacLangs (Charlie "The Duck" Clench), Chris Mahlmann (Gareth/Band Member), Preston Mulligan (Ensemble/Band Leader), Torrence O'Haire (Stanley Stubbers/Band Leader), Chelsea Pummill (Rachel Crabbe), Marisa Purcey (Pauline Clench), Allison Tousley (Ensemble/Band Member)