One Man, Two Guvnors
Giving Tree Theater — through Oct. 22
Giving Tree Theater is offering audiences a gift: an evening of such silliness that one’s troubles can’t intrude while the stage lights are up.
Under the direction of Joe Link, the cast of One Man, Two Guvnors delivers a rapid-fire collection of sight gags, linguistic trickery, recurring bits and general zaniness.
Richard Bean’s script is based on Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, which premiered in 1746. Bean’s update is set in Brighton, England in 1963. The title sums up what passes for a plot. Francis Henshall, played by Mic Evans, finds himself in the service of two different characters as he seeks to acquire food and love (in that order). He struggles to keep his two guvnors away from one another and straight in his mind. There are intrigues and reversals of fortune and misunderstandings and more — all en route to a happy ending.
Evans is charming in the leading role. He is particularly effective when speaking directly to the audience — those in the seats and those invited on stage to participate in the hijinks. His two employers are played by Jakes Stigers and Noel VanDenBosch. Stigers has impeccable timing and a rubber face, and he employed them to garner many a laugh. VanDenBosch, playing a woman pretending to be her dead twin brother, slides convincingly between swagger and sadness as her character seeks to secure some ill-gotten gains.
The title characters are well supported by the whole cast, including John Miersen as Alan Dangle, a young man who can’t keep from overacting each moment; Andie Paasch as Pauline Clench, a woman so vacant she can’t even grasp the story’s least confusing moments; David Morton as Charlie Clench, Pauline’s craven father; Clare Dieter as Dolly, a lusty bookkeeper; and Jon Day, making the most of a repeated joke, as Lloyd Boateng.
Most of the evening’s jokes landed, but at times the pace fell off just a bit. In other moments, a little more chaos would serve the play well. Even when Evans is feigning his character’s confusion, he seems just a smidgen too in control, hitting each mark and delivering each line just so. More dynamics, speed and door slamming (essential to this sort of play) would amp up the energy — and the laughs.
In the original production (which starred comedian and late-night host James Corden), a live band was part of the proceedings, providing Beatles-esque numbers to comment on the action. At Giving Tree, the songs were played over the sound system during scene changes; it took me until intermission to realize they were part of the story itself. Though adding a band would be difficult in the limited confines of the Giving Tree stage, its inclusion would serve the production well.
Link’s set is ingenious, folding and unfolding into different spaces while still providing room for the physical comedy. Richie Akers’ lighting design is subtle, in large part because the action extends from one of the stage to the other throughout the play.
One Man, Two Guvnors adds up to a wacky, likable show. The production runs through Oct. 22; tickets are $15-120.