By Richard Bean
Based on The Servant of Two Masters
by Carlo Goldoni
With songs by Grant Olding
Directed by Charles Newell
Music Direction by Doug Peck
At Court Theatre, Chicago
Old fashion laugh fest erupts at Court Theatre
When over-the-top British comedy meets commedia dell’ arte with energetic, totally committed Chicago actors, the result is a manic mix of satire, songs, and physical comedy aimed to please our funny bones. This is the funnest, smartest, and most imaginative comedy to grace a Chicago stage in years!
One Man. Two Guvnors is Richard Bean’s adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th Century commedia dell’ arte classic, The Servant of Two Masters. Bean utilizes the British sense of over-the-top physical comedy, smart word play, and satirical songs satirizing pop British from the 1960’s. Utilizing Collette Pollard’s dazing Brighton, England coastal boardwalk set, we meet through song the eleven member cast who act, clown, sing, and play various instruments as they present the complex story of Francis Henshall (the fabulous Timothy Edward Kane) as he juggles separate employment by two men. One is a local gangster, Roscoe Crabbe ( the amazing Elizabeth Ledo), and the other Stanley Stubbers (the understated comic/musician Erik Hellman). Francis tries to keep the two from meeting and discovering his secret, but Roscoe is really Rachel Crabbe in disguise – her twin brother was killed by her lover, who happens to be Stubbers. This, among other complications, gives fuel to the comedy as the parents, Charlie “The Duck” Clench (Francis Guinan) owes Roscoe money, while Pauline (Chaun Cross), Charlie’s daughter, wants to marry Alan Dangle (Alex Goodrich), an aspiring actor and son of Charlie’s lawyer, Harry Dangle (Ross Lehman). Local friend to most, Lloyd Boating (Alan Gilmore) is the ex-prisoner. Dolly (Hollis Resnik), Charlie’s bookkeeper who falls for the one person who can change her life.
This cast of stock characters were inspired by famed Yale expert in commedia dell’ arte Christopher Bayes and famed comic Allen Gilmore and allowed to exude all the comic bits from each scene by director Charles Newell, resulting in so many funny bits that it was, at times, comic overload. The style allows the players to interact effectively with the audience thus heightening the comic effect. The clowning was non-stop with generous bits of physical comedy from rollicking jaunts through crooked schemes and general buffoonery that produced many belly laughs!
From Ross Lehman’s pratfalls, to Alex Goodrich’s slapstick, to Chaun Cross’ clowning, One Man, Two Guvnors will impress you with the manic stage craft that includes many catchy pop/rock tunes. But as effective and skilled these comics are, it was the incredible work by Timothy Edward Kane that anchored this amazing show. Kane once more proved that he is the most skilled and fearless actor working in Chicago. Here he combines is spot-on comic timing with his extraordinary physical bits that include facial expressions, and zany movements. His bits serving his two masters food and drink was priceless among other wonderful comic routines.
Date Reviewed: May 21, 2016
For more info checkout One Man, Two Guvnors page at theatreinchicago.com
At Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, IL, call 773-753-4472, www.courttheatre.org, tickets $45 – $65, Wed.& thur at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, through June 12, 2016