Tag Archives: Seattle Center Armory

Sound Theatre’s ‘Guvnors’ is music-hall madness

So, what to make of a show that includes a fight scene involving — among other things — Stan Laurel, Charlie Chaplin and a vicious stuffed puppy dog?

That’s just a sample of the goofiness that pervades Richard Bean‘s “One Man, Two Guvnors,” which opened last weekend at the Seattle Center Armory under the auspices of Sound Theatre Company and the direction of Ken Michels. Physical comedy, Anglo-snark, double entendre and sexual innuendo all abound, sometimes seeming to compete for laughs in what comes off as an old-school British music-hall romp on Judd Apatow steroids.

It’s one of those shows that doesn’t even pretend to be plausible. Bean’s account of Brighton buffoonery — an adaptation of “The Servant of Two Masters,” Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century Commedia dell-arte comedy re-set in England in 1963, just as the Beatles are poised to get fab — simply lays down a gauntlet and invites audiences to try — just try — to keep up in what is essentially a skit-sized plot fleshed out to a generous two acts with funny business.

If it doesn’t make sense, you’ll be too busy laughing for it to matter.

What plot there is centers ar0819_KSFE_Guvnors1ound Francis (a brilliantly locomotive David Roby (pictured at left), a comic force of nature who’ll burn through a double order of fish ‘n chips nightly), who’s cast his lot with not one, b0819_KSFE_Guvnors2ut two bosses — “Guvnors” — and attempts to keep his respective responsibilities sorted out while also trying (initially) to fill his belly and (secondarily) fulfill his libido.

One guvnor is Charlie “the Duck” (John Clark, so wonderful in Key City Public Theatre’s “The Mystery of Irma Vep” last year); the other is loutish Stanley (Luke Sayler). Both are entangled, in unrelated ways, with a shady character named Roscoe Crabbe, who might or might not be dead, and might or might not be homosexual, but is certainly betrothed to  Charlie’s daughter Pauline (Christine Riippi), who’d much rather marry Alan (Daniel Stoltenberg), an aspiring bad actor and the son of Charlie’s solicitor, Harry Dangle (Sierra Kagen).

Things thick enough for you? We’ve only just begun to convolute, people. Add in the show’s many musical numbers (with most of the cast contributing vocals and/or instruments to the basics supplied by guitarist John Brenner and pianist Elijah Pasco), frequent Beatles references, and Francis’ gleeful penchant for not just breaking the Fourth Wall but disregarding it completely (including the recruitment and subsequent mistreatment of audience members), and there’s more going on than will fit on any traditional scorecard.

Michels — familiar to Kitsap audiences from his frequent duties at Bainbridge Performing Arts — keeps his mostly tremendous cast whipped into a frenzy throughout, finding and utilitizing every opportunity for Roby et al to grind out every possible laugh. Not everyone supplies all the substance they might, and I had trouble deciphering some of the accents, but all hands dive into the slapstick style of the thing with wild abandon.

A couple of standouts (besides Roby): Kayla Teel (pictured above) makes for the most unlikely of tough guys as Roscoe, but still manages to imbue him with enough slimy, swaggering weirdness that the character comes off both edgy and funny at the same time. And Stoltenberg wraps himself around his every over-emoted, over-elocuted and over-amped line (“My honor has been fiddled with!”) to the point where you’re simply left with no choice but to laugh.

Burton Yuen‘s multi-layered, 3-D set is extensive and evocative, but sometimes leaves out of the action the audience members seated off to the sides. Set changes and lengthy and detailed, but covered quite nicely by the aforementioned musical selections.

“One Man, Two Guvnors” is eager to please, anything — and I mean anything — for a laugh, old-school English mega-farce. It’s not to be taken in any way seriously, and certainly not to be watched with a straight face.

You couldn’t, anyway, even if you tried.

NOTE: The 2 p.m. Aug. 20 performance is designed exclusively for families and groups whose members include people on the autism spectrum.

REVIEW

‘ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS’

Who: Sound Theatre Company

What: Comedy by Richard Bean, based on “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldoni

Where: Seattle Center Armory, downstairs

When: Through Aug. 27; 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays. NOTE: The 2 p.m. Aug. 20 performance is autism-friendly

Tickets: $25-$15

Information: 206-856-5520, soundtheatrecompany.org. Brown Paper Tickets — 800-838-3006, brownpapertickets.com

PHOTOS BY KEN HOLMES  |  SOUND THEATRE COMPANY

— MM