Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Bean's play is an updated homage to Carlo Goldoni's 1740s Italian commedia classic The Servant of Two Masters, which centered on a harlequin who gets into comical situations while employed by two bosses. Bean updates the location of his comedy to 1960s Brighton and focuses on a simple British man, Francis Henshall, who believes he's hit the jackpot since he's found employment with two men at the same time. The fact that one of the men is a gangster and the other just recently killed a man doesn't matter to the starving Francis since having two jobs means he'll have money to finally eat. However, Francis' hunger pangs and his desire to take a woman he's just met off on a holiday to Majorca distract him and make him unable to keep the two jobs straight.
Bean successfully incorporates many elements of farce, including mistaken identity, gags and pratfalls, along with having Henshall break the fourth wall many times to interact with the audience. However, the first scene is somewhat confusing, as an assortment of characters and situations are introduced and it takes a short while for the lunacy to truly begin. Once Henshall enters, the show is off and running with the energy hardly waning, giving Larsen many opportunities to show off his clowning and comic-acting abilities as well as his endearing connection with the audience.
Director Michael Kary has a lot of experience in successfully staging comedies and farces as well as a personal connection with this play, having portrayed one of the main characters in the Arizona premiere of the show at Phoenix Theatre back in 2015. While Kary has chosen to not use the songs that were used in the London and Broadway productions, they aren't really missed, as removing them speeds up the plot and pace, and Kary does include a few comical scene changes where the musical numbers were previously used. His cast for this production are all very good, not only in creating humorous characters but also in ensuring that the comic bits all land and get big laughs. Only a few diction issues with the thick English accents used in the play made some of the lines hard to understand at the performance I attended.
Micah Larsen has perfect comic timing and a beautiful stage presence with a huge amount of warmth, and he throws himself into the character of Francis. He doesn't push too hard or oversell each comic moment, which actually makes them even funnier. The scene in which he has a conversation with himself that ends up in a fight is expertly staged by Kary and perfectly delivered by Larsen. He has a strong connection with all of his fellow actors and exudes charm in the interactions he has with the audience. It's a faultless, perfectly delivered, comical performance in every way.
Brandon Brown and Paige Duhon both do very well in portraying Francis' two "Guvnors." Brown injects a fun upper-class sensibility to the role, which is a nice counterpoint to the fact that he's a murderer, with an occasional wink or side look to the audience at just the right time at the end of a funny line he's delivered that gets big laughs. Duhon plays a woman who is masquerading as her dead twin brother for most of the show, and she has a lot of fun with the dual part. Ryan Ardelt does an excellent job as Alan Dangle, a young man who dreams of being an actor, so every line and gesture he makes is delivered as if he's auditioning for a part in a play. Abbey Yee is a hoot as the overly sexy Dolly whom Francis falls for, and Halee Conway does a very good job as the woman Alan is in love with who is a bit clueless. Also, Joel Segraves plays an elderly waiter who has many calamities happen to him, including being hit by a succession of doors, and he exhibits a keen sense for physical comedy in the role.
William Symington's set design uses some large moveable flats that quickly and effectively transform from a living room to a street and then to the interior of a hotel dining room. The costumes by Nola Yergen are fun, colorful 1960s period designs.
With a talented cast and sure-footed direction, GCU's production of One Man, Two Guvnors is a winner.
GCU's College of Fine Arts and Production's One Man, Two Guvnors, through September 1, 2019, at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre, 3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix AZ. Ticket and performance information can be found at http://events.gcu.edu or by calling 602-639-8880
Director: Michael Kary