BWW Review: ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS at SBCC Theater Group

BWW Review: ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS at SBCC Theater Group

Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors is based on Carlo Goldoni's Servant of Two masters, a 1746 commedia dell'arte piece featuring the Truffaldino harlequin as a prospecting errand boy who works for two different men, constantly confusing what tasks he's supposed to be performing for which boss. As the title suggests, Guvnors mirrors this plot, though the action takes place in 1960s Brighton. Francis (Michael Bernard) is a portly loafer who stumbles into the employ of Rosco Crabbe (who is actually Rosco's dizygotic twin, Rachel (Shannon Saleh), in drag). Francis, who suffers from a constant, voracious appetite (and an equally anorexic bank account), takes another gig on the sly: working for Stanley Stubbers (Dillon Yuhasz), Rachel's boyfriend--and Rosco's killer.

Francis bumbles through his tasks for Stanley and Rachel (who are trying to contact one another, but failing due to Francis's attempts to keep his two guvnors unaware of each other) while maintaining persistent attention to stealing food and flirting with sassy secretary, Dolly (Tiffany Story). His errands (and Rachel and Stanley's plan to run away to Australia to escape the rap for Rosco's murder) are complicated by Rosco's sham engagement to the daffy Pauline Clench (Haley Yuhasz), whose real engagement to melodramatic actor Alan Dangle (Justin Stark) is threatened by Rosco's unexpected return.

Admittedly, farce is not my favorite style of theatre. I have a higher tolerance for sex farces because I find sex and the related social attitudes fascinating, but I lose patience with straight buffoonery. That being said; there was much to appreciate about the SBCC Theater Group's production. Directed by Rick Mokler, Guvnors is certainly farcical, but musical interludes and improvisational tidbits provide relief from incessant mad-cappery.

The "band," which performs during scene changes, consists of cast members performing humorous ditties in the style of the era, cleverly punctuating stage action, and infusing the production more systematically with the working-class culture of skiffle rock. The improvisational elements include audience interactions, which create a fascinating diversion from the story: especially in comparison to the frivolousness of the plot, these interactions have the potential for weighty consequences; there's a palpable shift in audience disposition when they perceive a joke made at the expense of an unwitting viewer as having gone too far.

One Man, Two Guvnors requires the characters to be unreasonably oblivious--but the performers to be very smart. Is it, ultimately, three hours of horsin' around? Yes--at the beginning of the second act, Francis even admits to the audience that now that he's eaten, he has to find new motivation so he has something to do while the rest of the characters finish up their part of the story, and the play treads water until the ending reveals. Otherwise, SBCC's production is well rendered in a thorough and unified vision, and the show offers genuinely joyful performances from a talented cast. One Man, Two Guvnors runs at SBCC through October 28.

The SBCC Theater Group presents

One Man, Two Guvnors

by Richard Bean
Directed by Rick Mokler

October 11-28

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From This Author Maggie Yates

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