It’s been just over four years since Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors made its mad, merry pratfall onto the stage of public awareness—first in London, then New York. In that short length of time, Bean’s preposterous 1960s-set update of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century farce A Servant of Two Masters has already become a modern comedy classic, scooping up awards on both sides of the Atlantic, landing on the performance-rights Wish Lists of college and community theaters across the Western world.
Now, under the playful direction of Carl Jordan, this aggressively silly show gets its North Bay premiere at 6th Street Playhouse. The result is arguably the funniest play the company has presented since its black box staging of the similarly over-the-top The 39 Steps. Featuring a truly masterful performance by 6th Street’s Artistic Director Craig Miller, the production—though still a bit wobbly and uneven at opening—deserves to be seen by anyone who relishes the savory tang of laughter, lewdness and blatant, unashamed spectacle.
The story, alternating with pleasantly scruffy songs delivered by a combo of laid-back musicians, follows a day in the life of professional “minder” Francis Henshaw (Miller). He’s just arrived in the seaside town of Brighton to deliver a message from his boss, the petty criminal Roscoe Crabbe, who was recently killed (“accidentally” and repeatedly stabbed) by wealthy gangster Stanley Stubbers (Ben Stowe, magnificent)—but is now being impersonated, barely, by his own sister Rachel (Rose Roberts), who’s come to town with Francis in search of a big score.
Easily confused—and ravenously hungry—Francis ultimately accepts a second job working for Stubbers, who’s also arrived in town, looking for his missing fiancé, who happens to be Rachel. A large cast of characters constantly swirls about, as Francis gamely attempts to solve all of the problems he accidentally causes, carried on a wave of physical comedy and outrageously over-the-top dialogue (“I smell like a doctor’s finger!” “Love passes through marriage like shit through a small dog!”).
The production isn’t perfect. Certain actors’ accents border on the indecipherable, a closing song by the cast is woefully tone-challenged, and some of the gags—and a great deal of the second act—lag a tad in energy and invention. Still, furiously driven as it is by the joyous mayhem of Miller’s comic presence, this ridiculous exercise in comedic fervor is as satisfying as a good sandwich at the end of a long day.★★★★