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‘One Man Two Guvnors’ a strange and wacky wonder at Bremerton Community Theatre

"One Man Two Guvnors" continues through June 25.

"One Man, Two Guvnors" is an English adaptation of the Italian Servant of Two Masters. Written 33 years before the American Revolution it is an example of "Commedia dell’arte," which is considered the forefather of modern comedic acting. Bremerton Community Theatre continues it’s run of this show through June 25 in their Robert Montgomery Auditorium. That is the larger, more formal, of the two performance spaces under the BCT roof. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees have a 2:30 p.m. curtain.

The auditorium is a classic beauty but "formal" was hardly the order of the night. "One Man Two Guvnors" is bawdy, joyful, and one of the hardest plays to review in South Sound theater history. It breaks through the wall between actor and audience with impunity, using one unsuspecting audience member as both actor and prop. It employs modern comedic techniques and intersperses it with vaudevillian slapstick. One, to use an English expression, blimey bloke after another prances across the stage and the audience is roundly entertained during scene changes with quality musical entertainment. "One Man Two Guvnors" defies traditional theater definition. Not every gag connects, but enough of them score to make it a really fun night with some talented and witty folks.

The plot, such as it is, involves a bunch of people in love, one woman dressed as her twin brother, and a gentleman’s assistant with a serious appetite. He looks to satisfy his hunger by running errands for two different employers, all the while keeping them unaware of each other. Simple enough? Not when a criminal element in the form of a con artist shows up, accompanied by some muscle in the form of Lloyd Boateng. He learned his craft in Brixton Prison. The audience is asked to forego normal sensibilities and ride along at breakneck speeds.

The "One Man" in the title is Francis Henshall, played by Gary Fetterplace. His choice to combine Benny Hill and Monty Python’s Michael Palin was an inspired one. Some of Mr. Fetterplace’s best moments came when he needed to improvise. He is quick on his feet, blessed with excellent timing and dances an Irish jig with only slightly less skill than the Lucky Charms leprechaun. His twinkling eyes and cherubic cheeks reveal a man at home in a comedy. One audience member somewhat unkindly, shouted "Not you," when the crowd was asked what makes a good date. So untrue. Doubtless, Mr. Fetterplace fends off female companionship with a stick. Comedians of his skill are in social demand.

Henshall’s henchman Lloyd has a small part in the play proper. Played by Mark Jackson his bright and shining moments come between scenes when he and show Director Trina Williamson played guitar and keyboard respectively and sang. Whether as a duet or when joined by Nicole Bird and/or Erin Abbott (who did have major stage roles, as well) the Entre’acte was special!

Ms. Bird played Rachel Crabbe, pretending to be Roscoe Crabb most of the time. Her acting was excellent and her near-laugh when she called Christopher Dolan’s Stanley Stubbers "my hairy bear" was endearing in its own right. Indeed, there was enough Carol Burnett Show in this production to inspire a laugh on stage.

O·ver·actˌōvərˈakt/verb gerund or present participle: overacting 1. (of an actor) act a role in an exaggerated manner. The dictionary definition of overacting could be accompanied by a picture of Steven Ruggles in the role of Charlie "The Duck" Clench. That isn’t a criticism. "One Man Two Guvnors" begs for its actors to chew the scenery and rage against the turns their lives take. Overacting isn’t often a positive trait. In this show, it would be a shame not to emote like a locomotive. The Duck was well-played by Mr. Ruggles.

Besides singing between scenes, Erin Abbott played Dolly. It isn’t a large role by word count, but it is an important one. Dolly had some of the show’s funniest lines and Ms. Abbott spoke them with a marvelously droll delivery. She was a highlight of the evening.

Alfie the superannuated waiter was played by Wallace Ross. Much of the play’s physical comedy was performed by Ross. His limber body takes a beating. Some of the violence against his person was false stage violence, but the backward somersault he performed was all Wallace Ross. He was great, but a nearly three-hour play could have been shortened with fewer examples of Alfie getting the living kippers beaten out of him.

Kudos from Director Williamson are due to Gary Fetterplace and his crew for set design and Tina Henley-Hicks for her scenic artistry. One could imagine he/she was sitting on the docks of Brighton Pier, enjoying fish and chips.

This was the final show on the BCT 2016/17 calendar. Next season looks to be a great one, beginning with Agatha Christie’s "Mousetrap" in September, after their youth program performs "Law and Order Fairy Tale Unit" this summer. This is a theater worth supporting voluntarily or with pointed encouragement from Lloyd Boateng. He learned pointed encouragement in Brixton Prison.

Tickets to "One Man Two Guvnors" range from are reasonably priced from $8-$15 depending on the patron’s age. They are available on the Bremerton Community Theater ticketing page. The theater is located at 599 Lebo Blvd. The show is worth braving the construction currently underway on Lebo.

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