Hold on tight for Lyric’s ‘Two Guvnors’
BOSTON — “One Man, Two Guvnors” was a bit of a surprise hit during last year’s Broadway season, earning seven Tony nominations and earning a Tony Award for James Corden as Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Richard Bean’s remake of Goldoni’s “A Servant of Two Masters” is a commedia dell’arte style comedy that requires a cast that’s quick on its feet, and a director who’s equally quick on his feet, and fortunately the Lyric Stage Company has both in its current production through Oct. 12.
It’s a full-out , no-holds-barred British farce with quicksilver entrances and exits, generous helpings of wordplay, improv, audience interaction, pratfalls and the kind of social satire the Brits do so well.
It is 1963 in the British seaside city of Brighton — or is it Allston? — and Francis Henshall (Neil A. Casey), a man who’s easily confused, by his own admission, finds himself in the employ of two very different people: a notorious gangster named Roscoe Crabbe — don’t you just love the names — and the other an upper-class criminal by the name of Stanley Stubbers (Dan Whelton).
This is not really good news, because Roscoe Crabbe has actually been killed by Stubbers and Francis is actually working for his twin sister Rachel Crabbe (McCaela Donovan) , disguised as Roscoe. Stay with me here. Roscoe/Rachel, it turns out, is in love with Stanley.
There’s a standout performance by Alejandro Simoes — an IRNE winner this April for his role in Speakeasy’s “The Mother With The Hat” — as the overwrought amateur actor Alan Dangle, who spouts Shakespeare as he angles for the affections of the clueless Pauline Clench (Tiffany Chen), who has been promised to the scurrilous Roscoe by her equally scurrilous father, Charlie “The Duck” Clench (Dale Place).
Alan’s father is the estimable Larry Coen as Charlie’s Latin-spouting pompous attorney, Harry Dangle.
After dressing down for her recent turn in “North Shore Fish,“ Aimee Doherty is back as the enticing and alluring Dolly, who attracts Francis’s attention and with whom he is determined to enjoy a week in Majorca.
You need someone like Neil A. Casey as Francis to be the fulcrum of the madness, and Casey dives right in from the outset. Quick on his feet and a gifted physical comedian, you’ll howl at the scene where he hilariously wrestles himself into submission and he divides himself into two in a bid to keep the business of both his guvnors straight.
The fourth wall comes tumbling down — make that demolished — by Casey early on, and we are privy to Francis’s concerns about both serving two guvnors as well as the fact that he hasn’t eaten for a very long time.
Casey as Henshall will also be seeking to involve various audience members in the action. Get ready for slapstick, slamming doors, and numerous pratfalls, including those involving an 86-year-old deaf waiter named Alfie on his first day on the job, played by John Davin, whose comic chops are beyond approach.
Grant Olding’s Tony-nominated music — which is performed before the show and at many points during the show — was pleasant enough, but it didn’t really resonate with me. The problem isn’t the performance of it by a four-piece band led by Catherine Stornetta or the singing by the cast , with cast members Harry McEnerny V and Davron Monroe doing most of the musical heavy lifting. I just didn’t think the music really adds anything.
The music aside, “Two Guvnors” is fast and funny, sort of a theatrical roller coaster ride that forces you to grab hard onto the safety bar for about 21/2 hours. Take the ride.
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s production of Richard Bean’s “One Man, Two Guvnors,” through Oct. 12 at the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St., Boston. Directed by Spiro Veloudos. Scenic design by Matthew Whiton. Costume design Tyler Kinney. Lighting design by Scott Clyve. Sound design Andrew Duncan Will. Lyricstage.com.