Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.
If you’re searching for an energetic jolt of live entertainment, look no further than the Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) and its production of the hilarious One Man, Two Guvnors. It’s a romp wrapped in a musical farce. And, if you’re lucky (or unlucky?), you may end up on stage as part of the action.
|DTC's production of One Man, Two Guvnors.
Photo by Matt Urban/NüPOINT Marketing
One Man, Two Guvnors is an English adaptation of Servant of Two Masters, a 1743 commedia dell’arte work by Italian Carlo Goldoni. In 2011, English playwright Richard Bean replaced the Italian period setting of the original with 1963 Brighton, added original music by Grant Olding, and created a worldwide hit. The play was the launch vehicle for James Corden in America. In June 2012, Corden won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.
In this DTC production, the lead role of Francis Henshall is played skillfully by DJ Gleason. The easily confused Henshall makes his own life complicated by taking on more than his simple mind can handle. Gleason masterfully dances between scripted lines and improvisation while his character tries to please all parties involved in his current predicament. An argument that Henshall has with himself — which somehow turns violent — is a highlight of the show.
In a nutshell, the always-peckish Henshall becomes separately and concurrently employed by two men: gangster Roscoe Crabbe (Karen Peakes) and Stanley Stubbers (Jake Blouch), an upper-class buffoon. Henshall tries to keep his “guvnors” apart to avoid each of them learning that he is also working for someone else.
The snappy writing by Bean modernizes the classic farce and upgrades much of the humor for today’s audiences. Between the cleverly terrible metaphors, there is substance to the script, however wacky the plot may be. For instance, the virginal Pauline so often misses the point that she is described as “unsoiled by education.” The second act’s deep discussion of debilitating and deadly diseases has more alliteration than this sentence…and is hysterical.
But, as in any farce, stage timing and physical comedy must shine. They do. Trembling octogenarian waiter Alfie (Brian McCann) steals a riotous lunch scene through physical humor alone. Feminist Dolly is overtly sexual and playful when being seduced. Alan’s passion for acting is so deep that he often prompts the audience to recognize his entrances before speaking or changes his spot mid-line to gain better light. The air of misguided entitlement around Stanley’s every movement is palpable.
Kudos to Colin McIlvaine for his inventive scenic design. His wonderful inside and outside sets allow for the wacky physical comedy to shine while keeping the world grounded in period reality.
Live music by Nero Catalano (Emmett Drueding stood in on Opening Night) and Andrew Nelson added a party atmosphere inside the theater. Scene changes meant live ditties with plot points mixed in with the song lyrics — not to mention guest musicians from the cast. Get ready for an energetic kazoo solo!
The cast regularly breaks the fourth wall with an infectious sense of wink-wink mischief. The audience seems to be intimately involved in the capers on stage, with the actors in on the joke. It’s as if everybody in the theater wants to squeeze one more laugh out of a gag. It’s all very, very funny.
One Man, Two Guvnors is the last show for outgoing Artistic Director Bud Martin.
The performance schedule of One Man, Two Guvnors is: Wednesdays (2 p.m.), Thursdays (7 p.m.), Fridays (8 p.m.), Saturdays (2 & 8 p.m.), and Sundays (2 p.m.) through February 19. Tickets start at $29 while discounts are available for students, groups, and military members/veterans. The show is roughly two-and-a-half hours long with one 15-minute intermission.