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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “One Man, Two Guvnors”

June 6th, 2012

Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, we’re falling all over ourselves–and over chairs and down stairs–for a Tony-nominated farce…

Suzie Toase, Oliver Chris, James Corden & Jemima Rooper in "One Man, Two Guvnors". Photo by Joan Marcus.

One Man, Two Guvnors

British comic hero James Corden stars in this British transfer about one very hapless man trying to juggle love, sandwiches and two demanding bosses in swinging 60’s Brighton.

One Man is…both satanic and seraphic, dirty-minded and utterly innocent. Letting loose and neutralizing all sorts of demons, it’s ideal escapism for anxious times.” New York Times

“These guys just want one thing, and it’s to make us laugh. They succeed brilliantly.” New York Post

“On a laughs-per-minute basis, this rollicking London import gives The Book of Mormon a run for its funny.” Hollywood Reporter

“…it’s a decidedly mixed bag, a very long show (2½ hours) with one brilliant scene that doesn’t compensate for the acres of tedium that surround it.” Wall Street Journal

James Corden in "One Man, Two Guvnors". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Mizer’s Two Cents: Are you listening Tony voters? Is it too late to influence you? I know you want to give the Best Actor in a Play award to Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Death of a Salesman because…well…it’s a drama and it’s “important”. But take a moment and think about the wonder that is James Corden’s performance. It would be one thing if he were just an adept comedian or even a great improviser (though he is clearly both of these). However, without spoiling for those who haven’t seen the show, he’s up to so much more in those playful, spontaneous interactions with the audience and in the silly business of the script. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a greater example of being in the moment, creating the illusion that what is occurring on stage has never happened before. When you really step back and think about it, it’s a mind-bogglingly impressive performance and gets to the heart of what theater is all about. Vote for him.

As for the full production, it’s a dumb/giddy bubble bath of low humor and stock situations. Yes, it starts a bit slow but it builds expertly to a gut-busting end of the first act. The second act is a bit less satisfying with no climatic “topper” to build toward, yet the good will carries over and leaves you smiling and satisfied. The rest of the cast, particularly the wonderfully peculiar Oliver Chris, provides top notch support, gilding the classic cardboard characters with little touches of eccentricity.

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