Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Chandler Williams is gracefully athletic in the role of Bertie Wooster. Bertie is overly indulged by his aunts and one of them sends him to Totleigh Towers to pilfer a creamer from the 18th century for her husband. Bertie, who also narrates the story, is having a difficult time of it. Luckily, he is often in conversation with Jeeves (Arnie Burton), who takes on a variety of roles. Jeeves is, for certain, butler to Bertie. Another manservant type is Seppings (Eddie Korbich), who finds himself in all sorts of ludicrous predicaments. So, too, he must make many a swift wardrobe change. Thanks, here, to those assisting him and to Alice Power for the costumes. Imagine a man of normal height within the context of a nine foot tall Hitler-esque creation, who comes, goes, comes, goes, etc. Korbich is a laugh magnet as he plays the absurdist bad guy and Aunt Dahlia as well.
Power is also set designer and her stage revolves as Jeeves or Seppings seemingly peddle it around as they ride a nearby stationary bicycle. The trappings fuel the comedy, which is fast, sometimes very British, and always universal. Much of the material is evidently drawn from a novel called "The Code of the Woosters." The Goodale Brothers' script calls for two of the three actors to, within seconds, flip from one character to the next. The dashing Bertie (suave and master of ceremonies-like) links one moment to the next. It is sometimes near impossible to follow the plot, but that, of course, is often beside the point.
It is left to the servants to oftentimes manipulate props and set effects. This might occur one instant before each or both leave the stage and nearly immediately return as another character. Dub this dizzying, but it does work well.
As Bertie Wooster proceeds to stage a one-man show, he finds that nothing transpires as he envisionedeven with Jeeves and Seppings helping out. The shenanigans and sight gags, which include hair pieces and mustaches askew, costumes barely affixed in place, someone diving out of a window and so on, are undeniably rib tickling. Here's one vote for the brief but quite creative motor car vignette as best moment.
Audience laughter grows contagious and, at the performance I attended, many in the house were at the ready almost before an actor had uttered a word. The brand of humor actualized is crackling but it might not be every theatergoer's cup of tea or even cocoa. Still, performers Williams, Burton and Korbich are difficult to resist. The comic entertainment includes disguise, caricature and unmasking, all to the end of greatly enhanced travesty. Quickly, the manners of Great Britain are non-existent since the actors are hellbent in the quest of a particular moment. Again, should this be the kind of fare you sought, tears of laughter might very well be splashing down your face.
I heard in the lobby during intermission a theatregoer asking another his opinion and the second replied, "It's okay but only a farce," so certain observers might be tougher to sway. But the actors are exceptional and the production races imaginatively ahead constantly. Yes, for certain, each of the acts is a tad long. Perhaps Bertie, the debonair one, can make an adjustment...
Perfect Nonsense, through April 20, 2019, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford CT. For tickets, call 860-527-5151 or visit www.hartfordstage.org.