Monday, November 14, 2016

One Man, Two Guvnors—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR

“All Well That Ends Well”

This Vaudevillian-type comedy is written by Richard Bean, with songs by Grant Olding, and is based on the Italian play, The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldini.  It is directed by Don Alder and is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego, through December 11th.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org or call 503-635-3901.

The plot of this story, by itself, would offer almost no hope of getting a thumbs-up from anyone.  But add the comedic style, which is its saving grace, and you have a certified winner on your hands!  This reeks of Shakespearean-style comedy with its wise servants (stupid bosses/elite), disguises, gender-swapping, messages misconstrued, and downright silliness…all of which the Bard happily embraced.  It also complements the commedia dell’arte with it broad humor and incorporates Improv, magic, stand-up comedy, pantomime, slapstick, clowns, risqué humor, asides, word play/puns, audience participation, beautiful damsels, songs and dances, and as mentioned, a whole lot of vaudeville.

This incarnation takes places in Bristol, England around the mid-1960’s and is presented in a music hall type of environment.  The plot is a messy menagerie of misinformation and mistaken motives minus major mayhem but marrying merry mischief to many, mutinous minions.  Whew!  In this incarnation it involves a certain wandering servant, the industrious, Francis (Grant Byington), aka, Paddy, his Irish twin, aka also, Henshall.  He is simply looking for a job, mainly so he can eat, which he is very fond of.

One Guvnor he is enlisted to work for is the shifty, Stanley (Tom Walton), who is escaping to Australia, because he killed a man in a bar fight, a certain Roscoe, related to a rival gang, headed by the unforgiving, Charlie Clench (Gary Powell) who, with his daughter, the beauteous blonde, Pauline (Kailey Rhodes)--not the sharpest knife in the drawer--who is to wed the hammy actor, Alan (Joseph Murley).  Charles’s ensemble also includes his old cell-mate and current pub-owner, the menacing, Lloyd (Ted Shulz), his lawyer friend, Harry (John Morrison), father of the groom-to-be and his luscious secretary, Dolly (Rosalind Fell), an avowed feminist.

But it seems that Roscoe (Melissa Whitney), aka, Rachel, may not be dead after all and has returned for his share of the family loot.  The plot becomes even stickier when Francis is confronted with serving both “masters” when they are in the same restaurant.  Into play then comes Gareth (Brad Bolchunos), the headwaiter and his ancient sidekick, the bumbling, Alfie (Burl Ross), who are of little help in keeping things straight.  And, with the aid of a couple of “customers” (Lily Harris and Hannah Quigg), the plot becomes even more strained.  And, oh, yes, I haven’t even told you about the rock bands that perform at interludes, have I?  Guess that treat will have to await your curious eyes, as well as the ending.

The style of this is exceptional in the execution.  This type of production, along with children’s theatre, is probably the toughest kind to perform successfully, as you have to have a director (Alder) that understands how to present it (and he does) and a cast that is up to the challenge of delivering it (and they do)!  The timing has to be impeccable for it to succeed and this is an excellent example of everything working to a tee!  Alder is, indeed, a genius at it, as is his whole cast.  And the set, by John Gerth, the master-designer at Lakewood, in my opinion, is a masterpiece.  His toon-town like city is a joy to behold.

Much of the burden of the show rests squarely on the shoulders of the lead, Byington, and he is more than up to the challenge.  His body movement, facial expressions and vocal timing are brilliant!  The three ladies are very lovely and their characters are an important part of the fun and story, not just window dressing, as in some comedies, and they make the most of it, all very talented.  And an absolute hoot is Ross, as a Tim-Conway sort of waiter, with his elaborate pratfalls, mime, comedic gestures, timing and expressions, reminding one of an early Buster Keaton and his silent routines.  He is a master at this type of comedy and it shows!

I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.