BWW Review: JEEVES & WOOSTER IN 'PERFECT NONSENSE' at Hartford Stage
Sometimes the best cure for a sour mood or a gray day is a bit of nonsense. Whether that is achieved by laughing at some absurd meme your friend posted on Twitter, a mindless show you binge watch on Netflix, or a podcast with a comedian you love - frivolity can take many forms. This is true even in the theatre. Take Hartford Stage's latest production of the Olivier Award winning JEEVES & WOOSTER IN "PERFECT NONSENSE" by the Goodale Brothers based on the works of P.G. Wodehouse. This production provides a theatrical escape from whatever ails you and provides audiences with a hilarious romp told by three actors with a penchant for sight gags, impressions, and a whole lot of whimsy.
JEEVES AND WOOSTER IN "PERFECT NONSENSE" brings to the stage the two beloved characters created by P.G. Wodehouse - slightly daft gentleman Bertie Wooster and his long suffering, yet quite resourceful valet, Jeeves. The concept of the play is that Bertie (Chandler Williams) has decided to tell the story of some recent escapades in the form of a one-man show (he has seen actors before and thought "how hard could it be?") Like so many of Bertie's endeavors, he quickly finds he is unable to proceed without some help - in steps Jeeves (Arnie Burton) to lend a white gloved hand. The cast is rounded out by Bertie's Aunt Dahlia's butler, Seppings (Eddie Korbich) who, while a bit rougher around the edges, is equally up to the task of bringing the story to life, no matter what is called for. The plot centers around a sliver cow creamer that Bertie is asked to steal for his uncle while visiting his friend Gussie Finknottle who is engaged to be married but having a tough time convincing his new father-in-law he is worthy of marrying his daughter. Like so many farces before it, hijinks ensue, but with a proper British sensibility.
JEEVES & WOOSTER IN "PERFECT NONSENSE" is quite funny, owing mostly to the witty script by the Goodale Brothers and based on Wodehouse's original writings. The play is nimbly directed by Sean Foley, who creates an well formed pastiche of scenes through simple settings and most importantly through resourceful and skilled actors. Speaking of the actors, all three are brilliant to watch, but it is Mr. Burton as Jeeves and Mr. Korbich as Seppings who steal every scene. Each one plays two or three additional characters and does so in a seamless fashion, relying on some hilarious methods to deliver very different performances. Mr. Williams is also quite funny as the bumbling Bertie and gives a genuinely fun performance from beginning to end.
One of the highlights of this production is the scenic design by Alice Power. Since the show is supposed to be one Bertie is bringing to life for the audience, of course Jeeves would go above and beyond in providing the scenery. From a "functional" fireplace with rotating art, to a hilarious contraption to turn the set, the scenery (and scene changes) gain as many laughs and as much applause as the performances themselves. Alice Power also provides the costume design which is equally whimsical and often hilarious in its own right. Rounding out the creatives, John Gromada's sound design and original music provides the perfect undertone for the evening, and Philip Rosenberg's lighting is quite effective.
Overall, JEEVES & WOOSTER IN "PERFECT NONSENSE" is the kind of play that will brighten anyone's day. It is funny, creative, silly and satisfying and is something that longtime fans of these characters and those who have never had the pleasure of meeting them can all enjoy.
JEEVES & WOOSTER IN "PERFECT NONSENSE" runs at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT through April 20. Hartford Stage is located at 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT 06103. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Weekly schedules vary. For tickets or for more information call 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.
Mid-Photo 1: Chandler Williams
Bottom Photo: Arnie Burton