The Underpants

Also see Ann's review of Late Nite Catechism

Elena Passarello and Darren Eliker
In 1910 Dusseldorf Germany, there's not much more you can do to embarrass your government worker husband than to let your bloomers drop to your ankles in public. It happened to Louise Maske, and the repercussions of the event lead to a series of lust-induced high jinks that nearly derail the Maske marriage altogether in The Underpants.

Not that the one-year-old marriage of Louise and Theo Maske is all that solid to begin with. With his own strict German logic, Theo has declared that, though the marriage was consummated on the wedding night, subsequent marital relations shall be postponed until he is financially able to support a child. This makes job security very important to Theo, and the idea that his wife's lacy exposure while watching the king's parade might jeopardize his financial situation has him in a manic state. Enter two witnesses to Louise's public embarrassment: Herr Versati and Herr Cohen, both of whom are obsessed with Louise and want to rent a spare room in the Maske house (ka ching!) to protect their pursuit. What goes on in the house under Theo's nose (and behind Louise's back) is a comedy trip of farcical proportions. It's fast, it's funny and it's well presented by the City Theatre and this cast of players.

As Theo, Martin Giles has the role he was born to play (many other performances now appear to have been mere practice for this one). A master of the red-faced bluster, Giles is at high steam throughout the play. His stamina for keeping up the pace and the energy level is admirable, and he provides a good standard for the rest of the cast to follow. Elena Passarello, always enjoyable in even the smallest role, is sweet, clever and appropriately fetching in the role of Louise. She gets the comedy and resists going over the top.

The supporting cast is also fine, including Sheila McKenna as nosy upstairs neighbor Gertrude. McKenna goes for just the right mixture of bawdiness and vicariousness. Darren Eliker and Tim Hartman also turn in respectable performances, as the poetic Versati and the prudish Klinglehoff (yet another potential boarder), respectively.

The real gem here, however, is Joe Schultz as suitor/boarder Cohen (with a "C"!). It is a compliment to say one would assume he's a naturally fidgety nebbish - that's how well he portrays the high-strung, odd duck character of Cohen. Schultz is perfection here, with an on-target, delightful performance.

The set by Tony Ferrieri is functional and suitable, but doesn't bring a lot to creating a period atmosphere. Costumes by Don Mangone are quite nice and seem authentic. Tracy Brigden has directed efficiently, keeping the pace steady and speedy and the physical antics well choreographed.

This is Steve Martin's adaptation of the Carl Sternheim play, and it is very funny, in script as well as visually. There are a lot of naughty double entendres and pratfalls. As a 90-minute one-act with lots of action, The Underpants goes by in a flash.

The Underpants, on the City Theatre mainstage, has been extended through June 19. For performance and ticket information, call 412-431-CITY or visit

See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.

Photo: J.C. Schisler

-- Ann Miner

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