Produced by: Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Featuring: Ron Campbell (Alfie),William Connell (Stanley), Brad Culver (Alan), Dan Donohue (Francis Henshall), John-David Keller (Harry Dangle), Becca Lustgarten (Ensemble), Gerry McIntyre (Lloyd Boateng), Sarah Moser (Pauline), Todd Pivetti (Ensemble), Daniel Redmond (Ensemble), Helen Sadler (Rachel), Danny Scheie (Gareth), Steven Shear (Ensemble), Robert Sicular (Charlie Clench), and Claire Warden (Dolly)
Directed by: David Ivers
Creative team: Hugh Landwehr (scenic designer), Meg Neville (costume designer), Alexander V. Nichols (lighting designer), Lindsay Jones (sound designer), and Gregg Coffin (music director)
Onstage band: Casey Hurt (guitar and vocals and band leader), Andrew Niven (drummer), Marcus Högsta (bassist), and Mike McGraw (guitarist)
When: May 8 through June 28, 2015.
Where: Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, California
Tickets: $29-$89 (subject to change; discounts available). Call 510-647-2949 or visit berkeleyrep.org
According to Wikipedia, farce is "a comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable." They also have lots of physical humor. The British are rather good at them, so I was looking forward to a rollicking good time with Berkeley Rep’s production of "One Man, Two Guvnors," and I was not disappointed.
Set in 1963 Brighton, a sleepy seaside town on Britain’s south coast, the play is transferred from the original Venice, where Carlo Goldini’s comedic masterpiece "A Servant of Two Masters" was originally set.
There are twists and turns, lovers, scoundrels and cross-dressing, in fact something for everyone, really. The plot centers around Francis Henshall (played by the excellent Dan Donohue) who in Britain would be called "a wide boy" who lives by his wits and is never sure where his next five quid (UK pounds) is coming from, or indeed, his next meal.
The whole of the first act is taken up with him complaining that he hasn’t eaten for 12, 14, 16 hours. And it seems that every time he comes close to eating he is thwarted by outrageous fortune.
Aspiring actor Alan (Brad Culver) is engaged to Pauline (Sarah Moser), whom he loves for her "pure innocence, unspoilt by education." But, unfortunately, Rosco, her previous fiancé (played by Helen Sadler) has reappeared on the scene, even though he was supposed to have been killed in a bar fight. Which he may still have been. Try and keep up. Or not. It doesn’t really matter, as you will thoroughly enjoy yourself just going along for the ride.
To complete the immersion in '60s Britain, set change and interlude entertainment is provided by skiffle and budding rock band The Craze, playing original music by Grant Olding, who was nominated for a Tony for Best Original Score for the Broadway production of "One Man, Two Guvnors." The Craze do an excellent job of taking us back to the skiffle craze of the late '50s and early '60s, employing a variety of percussion instruments such as washboard and spoons, as well as the more usual drums, stand-up bass and guitar.
The Craze remains after the play on Saturday nights, to play for the audience.
At the Cricketers Arms pub, Henshall suddenly finds himself employed by not one but two people, running errands and such. As both of them want lunch at the pub, it seems that he will finally get something to eat, though he is nearly thwarted by ancient waiter Alfie, played with wonderful slapstick turns by Ron Campbell. His first "guvnor" is Rosco, and his second is ex-public schoolboy Stanley Snubbers, whose snobby upper class English accent and manners are played to a tee by William Connell, who has some delicious lines, such as "That’s how we won two world wars. The Germans had superior technology, but our officers showered together."
Now that he has eaten, Henshall tells us, in the second act, he is more concerned with his love interest Dolly (Claire Warden), a Christine Hendricks-like (Joan Harris in "Mad Men") secretary whom he attempts to woo. Lloyd Boateng’s running joke about Brixton prison gets funnier each time he uses it. Boateng is played by a very camp Gerry McIntyre.
Eventually all the plot twists and turns and the love interests are sewn together in a satisfying conclusion, and the audience is left with the feeling of having been thoroughly entertained. The sets, designed by Hugh Landwehr, are evocative of '60s Britain, with pub signs, Union Jacks and pictures of the Queen, and David Ivers direction is spot on, including some very funny interactions with the audience.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at email@example.com