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Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


Jeeves Intervenes
Sonoma Arts Live
Review by Jeanie K. Smith | Season Schedule

Also see Jeanie's review of Women in Jeopardy


Delaney Brummè, Randy St. Jean, and Nick Moore
Photo by Miller Oberlin
P.G. Wodehouse didn't write the play Jeeves Intervenes, but the wonderful stories of Bertie Wooster and wise valet Jeeves are the material on which the play is based. His stories captured an era and the laughable stuffiness of the English upper class, turning their obsessions with status and propriety into satirical comic genius. They're quintessentially British characters and settings, but easily recognizable for their foibles and ambitions. This stage adaptation by Margaret Raether brings the two lovable characters to life, along with Bertie's domineering Aunt Agatha and assorted others. The Sonoma Arts Live production, although not very British, lands some of the laughs in the witty script and manages to entertain.

Foolish and fun-loving Bertie Wooster (Delaney Brummè) relies on Jeeves (Randy St. Jean) to get him out of his many scrapes and pickles, and in fact, Jeeves' ability to resolve difficult situations has become legendary with Wooster's friends. When Eustace Bassington-Bassington (Nick Moore) shows up with a desperate plea, it's Jeeves' advice he seeks. Bassy's Uncle Rupert (Larry Williams), a frugal Scotsman whose allowance gives Bassy the easy life, is threatening to send him to India, to make him into a man and start him on a career in the jute business. Furthermore, he intends to visit London to make sure Bassy gets on the boat.

Meanwhile, Bertie has problems of his own, as Aunt Agatha (Jennie Brick) is determined to marry Bertie off to a promising young protegé, Gertrude (Libby Oberlin). She's hoping Gertrude will mold Bertie into a proper gentleman and quash his foolish, wastrel tendencies. Agatha, as is often said in colorful metaphors, is a force to be reckoned with, and Bertie is desperate to escape her latest marriage plot. His dependence on her monetary support notwithstanding, he can't stand the thought of going through life as "Bertie and Gertie."

Jeeves naturally comes up with schemes to save both Bertie and Bassy, while also saving face for Sir Rupert and Lady Agatha, and providing compensation for Gertrude in the bargain. He seemingly knows everything about everyone, and is able to maneuver situations even when they seem like disasters. But along the way there are disguises, mistaken identities, switched places, and hilarious hijinks. One minute all is lost, and the next Jeeves has saved the day—we hope! The dinner party (will the soup ever be served?) brings all to a climax and determines the future of our young devil-may-care hero.

St. Jean is delightfully droll as the clever, long-suffering Jeeves. He strikes the right notes, with just enough restrained eye-rolling and barely disguised sarcasm, and his physical restraint is quite proper. Moore's Bassy lolls about with an upper-class air that suggests an amusing distaste for actual work—we can't possibly imagine this young man in the jute business. His posh accent lends believability to his dreamy character and over-the-top antics. Oberlin captures Gertrude nicely with gesture and pose, setting up her marriage quest and bid as "future Agatha." Williams struggles with his Scottish accent but otherwise does all right with Sir Rupert's snobbery.

Brummè is the right type for Bertie, but suffers a vocal choice that makes him sound like a 12-year-old whose voice is changing. The squeaking might work as an occasional comic device, but persistently used becomes annoying, and often interferes with understanding. Brick's Agatha needs more gravitas for her role as the imperious dame, and more chemistry between her and Rupert. Different costume choices for her might have helped.

Slightly sloppy antics and a few odd production choices mar the show's overall presentation, but the clever script and some congenial performances save the day, not unlike Jeeves himself.

Jeeves Intervenes, through May 27, 2018, at Sonoma Arts Live, Sonoma Community Center, 276 East Napa St, Sonoma CA. Tickets $22.00-$37.00 can be purchased online at www.sonomaartslive.org or by phone at 866-710-8942.


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