BWW Reviews: ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS Entertains at 1st Stage in Tysons
One Man, Two Guvnors, the British import that wowed audiences in New York in 2012, has landed in Tysons! 1st Stage in Tysons has assembled a show that is a combination of farce, improv, and music hall, is the complete evening that will make you roll in the aisles with laughter.
The simple plot, which is based on Il servitore di due padroni (The Servant of Two Masters), the 1700s Commedia del'arte play by Carlo Goldoni. In this incarnation, British playwright Richard Bean, has crafted a masterful script set in Brighton in 1963. The play focuses on "easily confused" manservant, Francis, who as the title suggests, is in employ by two men. The first master is the recently deceased gangster, Roscoe Crabbe, and the other is his murderer, Stanley Stubbers. Since Roscoe has "returned" from the dead in the form of (mild spoiler), his twin sister Rachel, who has returned to marry the dimwitted Pauline, who is engaged to amateur thespian, Alan. And hilarity ensues.
The play, which does not even attempt to construct the "fourth wall", is magnificently directed by DC's local master of the Commedia dell'arte, Matthew R. Wilson. Wilson has constructed a balanced mixture of improve with the audience, to the physical comedy that is synonymous with farce. Wilson's entire production was like a Benny Hill revival and just as fresh and funny. From the moment the audience enters the theater, you are thrown into the scene with the brilliant 4 piece "skiffle band" playing the original score by Grant Olding. Wilson uses the band effectively not just to cover scene changes, but to provide the typical British musical commentary that is common in music hall style plays.
Starring as the confused Francis is local DC favorite, Doug Wilder. Wilder is no stranger to comedy, as he famously sped-read an energy bill on C-Span a few years ago. Wilder is the perfect choice for the role, as he brings an "everyman" approach to his physicality and is perfectly capable of going off script and keeping the show fresh. Frances, who was famously created by British comic, James Corden, is given a more working class feel to him, from his scruffy beard and unkept appearance to Lynly A. Saunders perfectly lived in costumes. As the center of the piece, director Wilson put all of his faith in Wilder, and it pays off.
As the two guvnors, Daniel Corey and Katy Carkuff shine just as brilliantly. Corey, with his uptight persona and impeccable facial expressions, not to mention his mad guitar skills, are joined by Carkuff's phenomenal "pants role", who steals the scene just by entering very John Wayne-esq and chewing on a toothpick. Also outstanding among the very distinguished troupe is Bess Kaye as accountant/strumpet, who portrays the thoroughly modern type in a very sexist time. Charlie Retzlaff as scenery-chewing Alan, reminded me of David Cross' alter ego, Tobias Funke, meanwhile his love, Megan Graves, as the dumb Pauline, was excellent in the use of her very big voice.
Rounding out the remarkable cast is the fathers, Harry (Mark Lee Adams) and Charlie (Steve Beall), chef/ex-con/steel drum player, Lloyd (DeJeanette Horne) and the skiffle band/ensemble, Jon Jon Johnson, Toby Mulford, Noah Schaefer, and Jason Tamborini. The quartet played every supporting role in addition to playing a multitude of instruments. Schaefer, as the very old Alfie, played the comic part with one foot in the grave, and another foot on a banana peel.
1st Stage in Tysons is no stranger to producing top quality productions and One Man, Two Guvnors, adds to that list. The show will make you laugh so hard that you will probably need to see it more than once just to catch all the jokes you miss by laughing!