In Play Reviews

A funny thing happened the other night. I entered the Lakewood Theatre a bit grumpy and worse for wear, and left the theatre two hours later wrung out from laughing.

One Man, Two Guvnors, playing at Lakewood through December 11, is the antidote to whatever is ailing your psyche at the moment. I can think of a number of things.

The play is a complete slapstick farce, set in  1960s Brighton, England, filled with goofy British humor. Think Black Adder, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers. Like these wonderful television shows from years back, One Man, Two Guvnors features ridiculous situations peppered with absurd dialogue and misguided assumptions. In addition, two simultaneous plots plus cases of mistaken identity bring to mind Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Richard Bean, a popular British playwright, created this play based on an 18th century Italian comedy The Servant of Two Masters by Carlos Goldini. I suspect the nod to Shakespeare is his own.

Grant Byington stars as the dim-witted Francis Henshall in Lakewood Theatre Company's One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo by Triumph Studios.

Grant Byington stars as the dim-witted Francis Henshall in Lakewood Theatre Company’s One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo by Triumph Studios.

Shakespeare plays often contain a fool. This play’s fool is also the leading man. Down-and-out Francis Henshall (Grant Byington) is starving–or thinks he is. In a fit of desperation, he takes a job with Rachel Crabbe (Melissa Whitney), an organized crime figure whose lover just whacked her twin brother. Shortly thereafter, he is employed by Stanley Stubbers (Tom Walton), who appears on the scene and hires Francis to do a little underworld work for him. Now in possession of two meal tickets, Francis attempts to keep his employers separate while he attempts to serve them both.

It doesn’t help that Francis, according to Stanley, is “not exactly a Swiss watch”. Much of the play’s humor derives from Francis’s mishandling of his assignments. However, the second plot, evident from the opening scene, also teases our attentions. Kailey Rhodes delivers a great comic performance as Pauline Clench, the fiancée of Rachel’s whacked brother. Pauline is also a couple bricks short of a load, but that hasn’t stopped her from securing herself another fiancé, Alan Dangle (Joseph Murley) in the week since fiancé Roscoe’s death. Her father Charley Clench (Gary Powell) is, well, clenching.

I know. It’s difficult to keep things straight. Particularly when one aches from laughing. Adept mime Burl Ross, as Alfie the geriatric waiter, Rosalind Fell as Dolly, Clench’s secretary, John Morrison, Ted Shulz,  and Brad Bolchunos complete the crazy cast. Don Alder’s direction of this comedy, where timing is everything, is bullet-proof. Oh, and the music. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve watched a gaggle of geezers lip-syncing the Beatles!

Coming next to Lakewood, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The Herdman kids are back, wreaking havoc on everything in their paths. Performances run every night December 15-23, plus 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Also, Lakewood Center hosts the Peppermint Bear Show breakfast theatre, weekend mornings from December 3-20. Lots of fun for everyone!



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