Sophomore Jackson Margolis and his brother, eighth grader Dylan, regularly review plays presented by the B Street Theatre, now part of The Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts which is located at 2700 Capitol Avenue. On Feb. 9 they saw Richard Bean’s British adaptation of the Italian comedy “Servant of Two Masters,” “One Man, Two Guvnors,” which was first performed at London’s Royal National Theatre in 2011.
When someone loses their job or moves across the country, the saying “For every door that closes, another one opens” usually comes into play. This motto could easily apply to the B Street Theatre’s new location.
However, to do that I need to describe each of the doors.
The first door, the one that closed, was a smaller, less sophisticated and somewhat rundown door with fewer bathrooms. And the door that is opening is a large, inviting, modern door with plenty of stalls.
Though this analogy is somewhat far-fetched, the new location of B Street Theater, The Sophia, is truly exquisite and a phenomenal space for performing theater.
In fact, according to the “One Man, Two Guvnors” program, the founder of the theatre and director of the play, Buck Busfield, chose this show to be the first on the new theatre’s stage because it highlighted the new location.
“I wanted to present a play that showed off both the beautiful new space and our talented acting company,” Busfield said.
And though we agree that the show highlights the new space by throwing things from the rafters into the audience and using large set pieces, we do not think that “One Man, Two Guvnors” is necessarily a phenomenal production that deserves the title of “First Show Ever at the Sophia.”
“One Man, Two Guvnors” is set in Brighton, England, in 1963 and tells the story of Francis Henshall (Peter Story), a stubby, recently unemployed, middle-aged man, who finds work with two different employers: Stanley Stubbers (Jason Kuykendall), a jumpy pretty boy, and Roscoe Crabbe (Stephanie Altholz), a tough gangster who turns out to be his own fraternal twin, Rachel.
The play begins at the engagement party of Pauline Clench (Tara Sissom), an emotionally driven spoiled brat, and Alan Dangle (John Lamb), an unconvincing actor. The party is thrown by Pauline’s father, Charlie “The Duck” Clench (Kurt Johnson).
Pauline, however, was supposed to marry Roscoe Crabbe, a homosexual mobster, in a deal set up by Charlie, until Roscoe was presumed to be shot dead.
Complicated and wild events ensue as Francis, who is not the sharpest tool in the box, tries to keep packages and letters of his two guvnors separate while pursuing both food and Charlie’s revolutionary-thinking bookkeeper, Dolly (Elisabeth Nunziato), and dealing with audience members and a very elderly waiter named Alfie (Amy Kelly).
Jackson: “OK, so what’d you think about it, Dylan?”
Dylan: “I mean, overall, it was good, but it was sort of like a wave. It had a pretty slow start, then it got super funny, and then it had a slow ending.
J: I agree. The plot was more complicated than was necessary for a farce comedy play. It really could’ve been shortened or simplified. But the main character, Francis, was the star. He made the show entertaining.
D: Yeah –
J: But, though it was funny, I could only take it for so long, due to its repetitiveness and –
D: Well, I liked the new space.
D: Sorry, just interrupting you. The chairs were comfortable, and I liked the cup holders.
J: Oh, and also the music playing in the lobby and the colorful lights that were (projected) onto the wall gave the space a modern and inviting feel.
D: I liked how the rows are at a higher angle so that someone’s head never gets in your view of the show.
J: Just like the Golden 1 Center.
D: There’s really not a bad seat in that theatre.
J: I definitely agree. So, Dillon (it’s going to drive him crazy that it’s spelled like that), what was your favorite part?
D: I liked the scene in the restaurant just before the end of Act One. Francis was serving both of his guvnors in the same restaurant and trying to give each of them his full attention.
J: Meanwhile, this whole time, Francis hasn’t eaten anything all day, so he is starving.
D: The chaos of Francis trying to deal with the incompetent waiters, his two guvnors –
J: And his hungry stomach.
D: Yes, and the random audience member who is invited on stage creates a really funny situation. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard while watching any play.
J: Me too. The improvisation and randomness of it all made it hilarious.
D: When he invited that woman on the stage and she was hiding under the table and holding plates of food, it was clear she had no idea what was going on.
J: Now that was funny.
D: I agree.
J: The Sophia itself gave them the ability to do a lot of scene changes, which added to the randomness of the show, and those couldn’t have been done at the old theatre.
D: About the scene changes – it wasn’t like the Music Circus, where they try to hide the crew who is changing the set on stage as best as possible.
J: Yeah, you could easily see them.
D: But it wasn’t bad because, during all of the scene breaks, they would bring out some musicians.
J: They were talented and distracted us.
D: But the show was still somewhat boring.
J: Yeah. It didn’t start off strong, but it did pick up speed right before intermission.
D: And we honestly could’ve left then.
J: You’re right. The second act was too focused on solving the ridiculous problems created in the first act than on making any legitimate humor.
D: I don’t think I laughed even once during the second act.
J: I wasn’t invested enough in the plot to really care what happened to the characters.
D: Except maybe Alfie. He was really funny.
J: Oh, yeah, Amy Kelly did a really good job playing an 87-year-old deaf waiter who was comic gold. She did a great job giving life to Alfie through how she spoke and how she walked. She never even remotely broke character.
D: I agree. When she dropped that plate of potatoes and they went everywhere, that was hilarious.
J: The reason that scene was funny was because it was fast-paced and high-energy, and the pace during the other scenes wasn’t as smooth.
D: So what would you give it out of four stars?
J: Three, definitely three.
D: Me too. It was really funny in some parts, but the repetitiveness and overcomplexity of most of the show are why I’m not giving it any higher.
J: At the beginning of the show I was thinking two-and-a-half, but after the scene in the restaurant, I thought that the show had four-star potential.
D: I mean there were a couple funny lines in the second act, but it wasn’t that great.
J: Did you really laugh out loud after any of them?
D: No, I didn’t.
J: That said, they did a good job of using the space. The sets were bigger, and they were able to interact with the audience on a more personal level, even though the theatre is much larger.
D: Good point, but I still wouldn’t recommend it for my age group. It didn’t have anything terribly inappropriate, but like me, I feel like most kids my age would get bored.
J: I couldn’t agree more. However, if you are a thespian, it’s worth dipping your toe in. At least come for the first act. The unpredictability of it all is really why it gets three stars; without that, it would be much lower. Is it your favorite show you’ve seen at B Street?