There is some kind of a weird symbiosis here; LVLT loves British comedy and, evidently, British comedy loves LVLT. That successful relationship is front and center with One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean, now playing on the main stage. The play is based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, written and performed in Italy in 1746.
The cast is in fine form in this commedia dell’arte piece, directed by Gillen Brey with just the right touch. Too heavy a hand and this style of comedy doesn’t work; too light, and it falls apart. Often confused with farce, commedia dell’arte is a form of improvised comedy; the script is there to follow, and is, but certain liberties are taken to fully engage with the audience. There’s plenty slamming of doors and over-the-top delivery, broken fourth wall asides, and literally calling on a few audience members to participate.
Casper Collins is wonderful in the lead role of Francis Henshall. He works the stage and the audience like a finely tuned pianoforte. The pratfalls and the asides feel as unrehearsed as the interaction with audience members. Collins is having fun and it shows.
Unrecognizable is Sarah Spraker as Rachel Crabbe. I can’t exactly give it away–that would ruin your fun. Suffice it say she does an excellent job, physicality and all.
Jeremy Alan Taylor plays Alfie, a server in Act 2. Taylor proves he’s adept at pratfalls as he channels Tim Conway’s old man from The Carol Burnett Show down to the finest detail with the stooped, slow walk and speech patterns. His performance is a fully-realized one and thoroughly delightful.
There are so many good performances in this large cast, time nor space allow for mentioning everyone. Amanda Collins, Rob Kastil, Brian Scott, Shana Brouwers, and Michael Blair all stand out in their roles, complimenting the whole to perfection. If there is one complaint it would be with the volumes used in speaking to the deaf Alfie that didn’t remain throughout. Given the level of improvisation allowed in this type of play, Taylor could have delivered plenty of “Eh?”s with a hand cupped to an ear to encourage consistency.
The three-section set is a marvel. Ron Lindblom manages to take us from a 1960’s drawing room to street scenes (via beautifully rendered projections), to upper-level private dining areas of a posh Pub which change to the anteroom of two hotel suites. In each, no detail was too small to cover.
Costumes are well done, especially the Harlequin-inspired suit for Henshall. But fell short for the Policeman (Ernest Medina) because the pants he was given to wear are tan while the rest of the outfit is fittingly dark blue.
Kudos to Bette Kennedy for her props, because details matter here, as well. Food is always tough to do, and, in fact, certain items are consumed on stage, but everything looked good enough to eat.
The production is tight, and laugh-out-loud funny. With this level of production value, LVLT kicks off their 40th season with aplomb.
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