Author Archive for: ‘suzanneangeo’

“One Man, Two Guvnors” at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa CA

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo
Members, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

Photos by Eric Chazankin

An Effortless Good Time

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

     If it’s light and frothy entertainment you’re after, with a good dose of healthy laughs, “One Man, Two Guvnors” at 6th Street Playhouse is just the ticket. This crazy show works up more lather than a foaming barrel of beer, with zero calories or mental exercise.
      Written by English playwright Richard Bean and first presented on the stage in 2011 by the National Theatre in London, “One Man, Two Guvnors” premiered on Broadway in April 2012. It features the strong Commedia dell’arte influence of the play from which it is adapted, “Servant of Two Masters”, written in 1783 by Carlo Goldoni. Bean advanced the setting to 1963 Brighton, England, to allow for the combination of comic elements from slapstick, English music hall revue and traditional theatre with early 1960s “British Invasion“  period music. A dizzying combination, to be sure, but in the right hands, the result is a fun and uniquely entertaining show. And it’s indeed in the right hands at 6th Street.
     The story revolves around the misadventures of a clownish lout named Francis (6th Street Artistic Director Craig Miller). It’s been just 16 hours since his last meal, but Francis is hungry. So hungry that he resorts to dumpster-diving and gulping the leavings from long-gone bar patrons‘ beverage glasses, even pocketing a soggy cigarette butt to enjoy later. He’s desperate for money and for work, and in such a state as this, he ends up taking on much more than he ever could have bargained for – employment by two local mobsters. He must keep them from knowing he’s got two “guvnors” for reasons that defy easy explanation. Complications arise when Francis falls for a sexy secretary, lovers fall victim to mistaken identity, and the usual madcap shenanigans. All ends well with two happy guvnors and three happy couples in a lusty clinch.
Benjamin Stowe

Benjamin Stowe

     Miller would have made a great silent film comic. Many, like Chaplin and Keaton, used physical movement techniques taken directly from the slapstick school of Commedia dell‘arte. Miller aces the role of Francis clad in a garish, two-sizes-too-small plaid suit which draws a laugh the moment he bounds onto the stage. His razor-sharp timing in reflexes, posturing and voice are all delivered at the highest level. A scene that has him wrangling a large steamer trunk with grim determination is a classic exercise in pantomime, one of many brilliantly funny high points in the show.
     Benjamin Stowe as Stanley Stubbers (one of the “guvnors”) is a master of this style of comic acting with mellow voice, nimble eyebrows and even more nimble feet. Rose Roberts is in rare form as his fiancée Rachel Crabbe, spending the better part of the show in male drag. Abbey Lee (Pauline) and Melissa Claire (Dolly) display their usual comic brilliance. Perennial delight Larry Williams shines in his role as the daft butler-in-training Alfie. The rest of the excellent cast includes Eyan Dean (Alan), Norman A Hall (Charlie), Alan Kaplan (Harry), Wendell H Wilson (Lloyd) and Jeff Cote (Gareth).
Rose Roberts

Rose Roberts

     Interludes between sets feature different cast members taking their turn playing steel drums, xylophones and other musical instruments. The three ladies in the cast (Claire, Lee and Roberts) perform “Lighten Up and Lay Low” like top-notch chorines in a variety show. A four-piece skiffle band called “The Craze” (Jake Turner, Bryce Williams, Mike Enz and Shovany Delgado) provides musical backup with a jolly sense of continuity. For the uninitiated: Skiffle is an American musical style blending jazz, folk and blues that became very popular in England in the late 1950s; John Lennon and Mick Jagger both launched their careers in skiffle bands.
     Director Carl Jordan plays ringmaster to this circus of unbridled silliness and displays a flexible hand with the very challenging staging and blocking that include musical numbers, liberal doses of improvisation and audience participation.  The show does have off-timing in some scenes, weakness in delivery and uneven energy levels, problems that could easily work themselves out in future performances.
     Sure, at times it’s lewd and crass – by design – and the storyline is incoherent even if you try to pay close attention, so don‘t even try – it‘s still great fun. You don’t need to do anything but sit, laugh, and expect the unexpected.
Cast of One Man, Two Guvnors

Cast of One Man, Two Guvnors

When: Now through February 7, 2016
8:00 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
2:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays 
Tickets: $15 to $32
Location: GK Hardt Theater at 6th Street Playhouse
52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa
Phone:  707-523-4185 ext. 1