One Man, Two Guvnors
Circle Theatre, Grand Rapids
July 10-12, 16-19, 23-26; show times at 5 & 7:30 p.m.
circletheatre.org, (616) 456-6656
Francis Henshall has two bosses. His first is Roscoe Crabbe, a local gangster. His second is Stanley Stubbers, an upper-class criminal. Anxious to keep his dual allegiance a secret, Francis desperately attempts to prevent the two “guvnors” from meeting. Little does Francis know that Crabbe is actually cold in his grave, having previously been murdered by Stubbers. The person now masquerading as Francis’ other employer is really Roscoe’s sister, intent on revenge.
A farcical tangle of chaos and mistaken identity, One Man, Two Guvnors provides a lighthearted escape for theatregoers this month. True to its Comedia dell’Arte genre, the play doesn’t take itself too seriously—puns, fart jokes and slapstick humor abound.
“There’s a lot of the tongue-in-cheek kind of jokes, plus plays on words and phrases and just really silly stuff, and I think people are really gonna enjoy it,” said Director Todd Avery. “[Audiences] can just sit back and forget all their troubles and not have to think too much. There’s nothing to figure out here—it’s all pretty much right out there in your lap.”
Also adding to the show’s hilarity are improvisation routines called lazzi. These loosely planned scenes are flexible enough for spur-of-the-moment decisions influenced by audience reactions.
“The actor has a basic motivation, has to get something done," Avery said. "It usually involves some sort of props, and he has to get from point A to point B, but whatever route he takes to get there is up to him, and he or she can play off of the audience and do lots of fun stuff with it."
One Man, Two Guvnors also pulls viewers in by using dramatic asides in which characters speak directly to the audience. Opportunities for a few audience members to join the actors onstage keep the show lively and engaging as well.
Additional highlights are performances by “The Craze,” an onstage skiffle band. The Craze not only provides musical transitions, but also fleshes out the characters’ personalities and emotions. Band members play various stringed and percussion instruments at all skill levels.
“Characters from the show are part of the skiffle band because it’s always just kind of whoever’s around who will grab something to play and jump up there," Avery said. "Most of the characters will be part of that. We have several very accomplished musicians and then some who can just, you know, squeeze a horn and maybe hit a tambourine, so it’s quite a variety of stuff."
Perhaps more than anything else, however, loveable characters are the best reason to go see the show.
“The connection the audience is gonna have with these characters is what really makes [One Man, Two Guvnors] memorable because they are just going to fall in love with some of these characters."
Other Performing Arts Events
Mason Street Warehouse, Saugatuck
July 25-27, 29-31, Aug. 1-3, 5-10; show times at 2, 7 & 8 p.m.
sc4a.org, (269) 857-2399
With suspense at every turn, it’s no wonder Deathtrap holds the record for the longest-running comedic thriller on Broadway. Our mystery begins when washed-up playwright Sindey Bruhl discovers his student’s play is sure to be the next big hit. The plot thickens when Sidney begins joking about killing the student in order to steal his script, a document that bears a curious resemblance to Deathtrap itself. If you think you’ve already predicted the ending, think again, because this deadly thriller is full of surprises.
Heritage Theatre Group
Spectrum Theater, Grand Rapids
July 17-19, 24-26, 31, Aug. 1-2; show time at 8 p.m.
heritagetheatregr.org, (616) 951-4842
Written by eccentric wit Nöel Coward, Blithe Spirit is a satirical comedy with a ghostly twist. While researching the occult for his latest novel, Charles Condomine meets up with an eccentric medium he believes to be a charlatan. To Charles’ astonishment, the clairvoyant’s powers prove legitimate when she successfully summons the ghost of Charles’ first wife. As it turns out, the spirit isn’t too happy with her husband’s new bride. A darkly humorous struggle commences as characters battle against an enemy only Charles can see and hear.
The Sound of Music
Hope Summer Repertory Theatre
DeWitt Main Theatre, Holland
July 2, 10, 16, 21, 24, 29, Aug. 2, 4, 7; show time at 8 p.m.
hope.edu/arts/hsrt, (616) 395-7890
An unforgettable classic, The Sound of Music is the ultimate feel-good summer show. We’re talking plucky kids, cutesy nuns and an adorkable heroine to boot. Timeless themes like self-discovery, young love and heroic bravery are sure to resonate with audience members both young an old. Good luck getting the songs out of your head, too.