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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
See How They Run
By Elyse Sommer
I'm happy to report that Barrington Stage's leave-them-laughing Main Stage finale for Summer 2012, is as sublimely silly, superbly timed and performed as One Man, Two Guvnors.. Each of its nine terrific farceurs is a standout, including Andy Nogasky the last to arrive in the cast (due to Don Lee Sparks' sudden illness) as well as the show show. And yes, by the time the last door has slammed Director Jeff Steitzer and his actors have indeed sent the audience into gales of laughter, even those (and yes, that includes tis writer) who aren't smitten with this brand of comedy.
Philip King's play is a classic madcap farce with a plot whose only purpose is to pile on the misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and pratfalls, and with it the laughs. It's set in the Vicarage of Meerton-cum-Middlewick, the sort of village that's a staple of British comedies and mysteries. Besides the resident Vicar, Lionel Toobin (Cary Donaldson). King has ratcheted up the potential for over-the-top insanity by populating his play with additional characters with turn-around collars (naturally, not all legitimate). There's also the Vicarage's cockney maid Ida (Dina Thomas) and Miss Skillon (Michele Tauber), self-righteous and horrendously unstylish village busybody to clash with Penelope Toop, the Vicar's free-spirited, and extremely stylish wife, a former actress.
The battle between the battleaxe matron and the beautiful Vicar's wife is merely the starter for the ludicrous misplaced blows that leave characters out cold, uncharacteristically sozzled, or running around the stage — in Vicar Toobin's case, stripped down to his underwear. Conveniently coincidental, Penelope's friend and colleague from her acting days, Clive Winton (Michael Brusasco) is in the army, stationed at a nearby camp for German prisoners of war. Penelope is delighted to see him and in another bit of convenient coincidence, there's a production of Noel Coward's Private Lives in which they co-starred nearby. Since Clive is on duty, Penelope lends him one of her hubby's suits and off they go.
Not to give too much away, besides Clive's costume change, a "Heil Hitler" happy, gun toting escapee (Jim Schubin) from the German internee camp also ends up in clerical costume, Penelope's uncle, the Bishop of Lax (Keith Jochim) arrives earlier than expected for an overnight visit, and is caught up in the mayhem at the Vicarage, as is guest Reverend Arthur Humphrey (Jeff Brooks).
The potent mix of characters adds up to increasingly hilarity. King's writing holds up remarkably well, especially since his punch lines and sight gags are delivered with deadon precision and agility whether by the major or minor players. If I had to single out the most memorable of the many funny scenes it would be a tossup between the four Vicars sitting side by side and Jeff Brooks's Reverend Humphrey politely accepting and pretend-drinking from an empty glass of brandy. As for my favorite line, it's a win-win-win for King's turning Coward's much quoted "Don't quibble Sybil" quip into "Don't bicker Vicar." However, Jochim's Bishop telling Sergeant Towers to "arrest most of these vicars" comes close.
Even when the Reverend Toop is back in his clerical garb, Clive is back in uniform, and the Nazi loses his grip on Penelope, King cleverly returns to Coward's Private Lives for a knockout finale. I would be remiss if I didn't add a big bravo to my praises for this energetic twist piled on twist production to the design team. Bill Clarke's very handsome set has the four doors that are de rigueur for a farce conveniently positioned. It's brightly lit by Philip S. Rosenberg. Sara Jean Tosetti's costumes are perfect suited for each character. The deliciously horrible outfit for Miss Skillion and more elegant costumes for Penelope are especially noteworthy. Sound designer Jessica Paz and Fight Choreographer Ryan Winkles round out the outstanding crafts team.
Don't expect any serious post show discussion about what all this running around means. Just go see this terrific ensemble run.
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free
Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show