Review: Lyric Stage Company’s “One Man, Two Guvnors”

Helen Schultz ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

It’s clear from the moment that you step into the small stage in the Lyric Theater that you’re in for a different kind of dramatic experience. When you’re greeted by an orchestra perched above the stage and three actors crooning, stomping, and twisting to the 60’s-infused soundtrack of “One Man, Two Guvnors”, it’s certain that this cast is going to be working very hard tonight. Sadly, this stellar ensemble is not given much to work with. “One Man, Two Guvnors” is quite the romp – but it’s the cast that saves this play from its problematic book.

It’s not that One Man doesn’t have its moments of brilliance – a particularly hilarious scene involving a pot of soup, some audience participation, and an octogenarian tripping all over the place drove the audience at the matinee I attended absolutely wild. This adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s Italian classic “The Servant of Two Masters” takes the classic tale of a bumbling fool who finds himself serving two different men and sets it in 1960s England. It is an ode to British comedy – often absurd, packed with pitfalls and tumbles, and cheeky enough to make the most crass theatergoer blush. But some scenes seem too long and drawn out for their own good (the play clocks in at a whopping two hours and thirty minutes with a pre-show and fifteen-minute intermission). This comedy of errors relies on a series of reversals and mistaken identities, but by the last scene of the play we find ourselves so wrapped up in superfluous subplots that we’re relieved when all problems are resolved and the curtain falls on this farce. Luckily, it is helmed by an undeniably talented cast and directed with great comic timing.

The shining star of this production is Neil A. Casey, the titular “one man.” Given the task of addressing the audience and remaining onstage for the majority of the production, Casey’s performance is a master class in slapstick comedy. Other standouts include Alejandro Simoes as a daft aspiring actor named Alan, John Davin as elderly punching bag Alfie, and Tiffany Chen as the flighty Pauline. The ensemble is masterfully directed by Spiro Veloudos. Lines that could otherwise appear slow and tedious run quickly and cleanly when handled by the spectacular talent present in this cast. Matthew Whiton’s scenic design takes advantage of a small transformable stage to transport us all over the English countryside. The team does its best – and its best is quite good – with what it’s been given.

There are moments in “One Man, Two Guvnors” that leave one looking at their watch. But then there are other moments that leave one breathless with laughter. If you can sit through the moments that seem to drag in this comedy, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled laughs.

“One Man, Two Guvnors” runs from September 6th until October 12th at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston.

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