|Brad Culver, Sarah Moser, John-David Keller and Dan Donohue in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo courtesy of mellowpix.|
Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.
This familiar adage tersely encapsulates the challenge of comedy, a genre that is easily judged by the amount of laughter in the recipients. From the Greeks to modern day, artists have spent countless hours honing their craft, discovering the “rules” of comedy, and developing strategies to capture the chuckles of audiences. “Comedy,” explains Al Jean, “is very mathematical…with its precision and control.” As a longtime writer on “The Simpsons” and a Harvard graduate in mathematics, he would know. Good comedy should have a complicated set-up and then an unexpected reveal, and Jean says “coming up with a good joke is often like doing a proof.” South Coast Repertory’s opening production of the season, One Man Two Guvnors, rises to the challenge.
|Helen Sadler, Brad Culver and Robert Sicular in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo courtesy of mellowpix.|
Bean’s adaptation places the archetypal characters of commedia dell’arte in their new setting of the UK in the 60's. It’s got the desired complicated set-up: the story centers on an overworked and scheming servant, Francis, who hatches a plan to serve two masters to get double the payment and double the lunch. He’s working for gangster Stanley when the mysterious Roscoe (who is actually his own twin sister, Rachel, in disguise) offers to hire him. Rachel’s secretly having an affair with Stanley, but meanwhile he’s engaged to Pauline. Pauline’s got a plan to elope with wannabe actor Alan. As befits a farce, the relationships and misunderstandings crescendo to an impossibly frenetic climax, with many unexpected revelations along the way.
|Dan Donohue and William Connell in One Man, Two Guvnors. Photo courtesy of mellopix.com|
Ivers doesn’t shy away from the mathematical demands of this farce, and describes the show as being “built like a machine.” He integrates a band—a skiffle band, a blues/folk/rock blend—with the actors, their movements and the technical elements with careful meticulousness. Ivers says “the world of farce and physical comedy really speaks to me because it marries precision with being a child, with childishness—innocence and purity and total youthful exuberance with a kind of virtuosity.” The audience can appreciate the youthful exuberance of One Man, Two Guvnors, while the mathematical formulas and careful orchestration remain part of the work behind the scenes.
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