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BWW Reviews: Brilliant Satirical YES, PRIME MINISTER Lands at Geffen

Yes, Prime Minister/by AnTony Jay and Jonathan Lynn/based on their BBC TV series/directed by Jonathan Lynn/Geffen Playhouse/through July 14

Not unlike David Mamet's November, a screwball look at the overwhelming incompetence of an American President, Yes, Prime Minister by AnTony Jay and Jonathan Lynn in its American premiere at the Geffen, is a savvy, right-on-target satire of British politics that is over-the-top, hysterically funny with an outstanding director and cast.

In the midst of an economic crisis, Great Britain turns to Kumranistani for a loan which will seal an oil pipeline plan across Europe. This was at a time, a couple of years ago, when England was at odds over the ECB (European Central Bank) and joining the euro. If the deal falls through, it will not be easy to find an alternative, but Prime Minister Jim Hacker (Michael McKean) is stubbornly determined to follow his own foolhardy path. With his Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (Jefferson Mays), Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey, affectionately known to him as "Bubbles" (Dakin Matthews) and Special Policy Advisor Claire Sutton (Tara Summers) around to 'advise' him - it's a bumbling crew - things are in a pretty awful mess. And when the Kumranistani President requests a special illicit favor during a weekend at Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence - which they all consider downright immoral - all hell breaks loose. Of course, what would the United States do in these circumstances? Sutton phones an American contact and the retort? "Assassinate him! Then, pray!" Everyone's in a pickle, because if Kumranistani is not satisfied, there will be no deal and... if they give in, they will have to resort to a devious cover-up. Not like this sort of thing has not happened before, but... It's AnTony Jay and Jonathan Lynn's flashy, incessant barrage of biting humor and cleverly topical zingers that make the play work optimally. Lots of great references to American political misbehavior by Clinton, Busch and the like! With their "Don't rock the boat. We're making too much money" philosophy, Great Britain, and not the US, show screamingly flagrant bad choices and become the butt of our nonstop laughter.

Under Livingston's skilled from the outside in approach to direction - which is the opposite way of American actors working - it all manages to pan out with hilarious results. Matthews, McKean and Mays, all American actors incidentally, are brilliantly adept at squeezing every ounce of ludicrous humor from their characters. Mays is expert at creating blustery insecurity as is McKean with near mental collapse, and Matthews scores bigtime with his long monologues delivered trippingly from the tongue. It is difficult to figure out what he is actually saying as every syllable is blurted out fast and furious, but it's comically winning. Summers balances the Three Stooges with her deliciously direct, no nonsense performance. Brian George as the Kumranistani Ambassador, Time Winters as Director General of the BBC and Stephen Caffrey as a BBC Presenter add fine comedic touches. Set design of the Prime Minister's work chambers by Simon Higlett is quite elegant. Sound designers Andrea J Cox and John Leonard literally move audience from their seats with thunder.

By George, the high comedy Yes, Prime Minister works quite expediently in delivering immediacy and credibility. I love the line, "Serve the public, not do what's right!" Politics are politics, after all, no matter on which side of the Pond you happen to find yourself. To sum it all up, the play's the thing

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From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                            ... (read more about this author)