By Margaret Raether
Based on the characters of P.G. Wodehouse
Directed by Alison C. Vesely, SDC
Produced by First Folio Theatre
At Mayslake Peabody Estate , Oak brook, IL
Smart, hilarious, high British comedy highlighted by a brilliant cast
The folks at First Folio Theatre, after a successful run of their 2008 hit comedy Jeeves Intervenes, have reunited Bertie Wooster (the fabulous Christian Gray) and his unflappable butler Jeeves (the brilliant Jim McCance) in another wacky British comedy of manners based on the P.G. Wodehouse characters. Margaret Raether captures the zaniness and comic wit of Wodehouse aptly. Director Aalison C. Vesely has cast a deft assortment of comic talents who throw everything into their performances. This a funny ensemble work that gives each cast member their go at high British comedy. The result is one of the funniest, most entertaining nights of theatre I’ve experienced in ages!
In this story, the empty-headed Bertie Wooster is called to the country by his overbearing Aunt Dahlia (Jeanne Affelder). Bertie brings his newt-loving school chum, Gussie Fink-Nottle (Kevin McKillup in a zany comic turn), Berite is faced with the task of eluding once again romantic entanglement from the fairy-adoringMadeline Bassett (Melanie Keller in a melodramatically hilarious turn). Bertie dodges the clever-weaving of Anatole the Chef (James Leaming in a duel role) as well as the shotgun-toting Uncle Tom (also James Leaming).
The madcap comedy uses the fabulous red brick courtyard country manner set (designed by Angela Miller) to stage this wild, physical comedic romp that finds doors slamming and folks chasing one another around the garden. Just as Bertie and Gussie get tangled in a web as Bertie tries to help Gussie romance the lovely Madeline, the clever advise (and actions) of the steady Jeeves saves both Bertie, Gussie and Aunt Dahlia.
Once Bertie goes a tad too far, Jeeves is forced to resign from Bertie’s employment leaving Bertie in the proverbial lurch. What will happen as the shenanigans get wild and quite preposterous? Laughs and clever word play abound as Kevin McKillip, Christian Gray and James Leaming use their comedic and verbal skills, as well as their physical comic energy to garner the humor of Margaret Raether’s smart use of Wodehouses’ characters. The impeccable timing and commanding stage presence of Jim McCance gives Jeeves the run of the show.
This is high comedy, high theatricality, and high stage craft that all blend together to become a most pleasant and artful evening of pure escapist entertainment. If you cherish zany, well-crafted British comedy–then get to First Folio Theatre to witness a terrific and uproarious ensemble piece. You’ll laugh plenty. What a great cast! What fun!
At First Folio Theatre in the Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st Str & RT83, Oak Brook, IL, call 1-630-986-8067, tickets $28 – $30, $23 – $25 for students/seniors, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission.