‘Jeeves’ a credit to the art of being silly
Jim McCance as Jeeves dusts around an overwhelmed Bertie Wooster (Christian Gray) in "Jeeves Takes a Bow." | Photo by: Stefani Foster LaBrecque
‘Jeeves Takes a Bow’
First Folio Theatre at Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook
8 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 3
$30-$37; $26-$32 for seniors and students; (630) 986-8067 or visit www.firstfolio.org
Updated: February 12, 2013 9:00AM
With “Jeeves Takes a Bow,” First Folio Theatre serves up a frothy piffle of a comedy that’s gleefully, mindlessly silly.
Broadly played with all the depth of a champagne bubble, Margaret Raether’s adaptation of a P.G. Wodehouse story is a lighthearted diversion that’s well performed by First Folio’s veteran cast.
Or rather, mostly veteran cast. Director Alison C. Vesely has assembled a trio of tried and true Wodehouse specialists in Christian Gray, Kevin McKillip and Jim McCance. As the chuckleheaded rich boy with a propensity for getting into scrapes, Gray reprises the role of Bertie Wooster, a part he took on in First Folio’s stagings of “Jeeves Intervenes” and “Jeeves in Bloom.”
McCance is back in the title role, playing the manservant with a poker face and a prodigious ability for getting his hapless charge out of trouble. And McKillip returns as yet another of Bertie’s trouble-making sidekicks, this time playing Binky Binkersteth, a newly appointed diplomat who chucks his post in order to pursue a life on the wicked stage (and a comely actress).
Vesely knows that the core trio of McKillip, Gray and McCance is a terrific foundation on which to build yet another chapter in the dotty misadventures of Jeeves and Bertie. The chemistry between Gray and McCance is solid and McKillip — with spot-on comic timing and a braying, infectious laugh — makes for a daffy mischief maker.
That high jinks begin when Binky — for reasons so preposterous you can’t help but chortle — bursts into Bertie’s lavishly appointed art deco apartment (truly impressive work by set designer Angela Miller) with a winsome young blonde and commences to pretend he is Bertie and Bertie is he.
Bertie is flamboozled at the switcheroo, both irked and perplexed at having to give up his identity. It almost doesn’t matter why the mix-up is required; the plot here is about gags and giggles far more than realistic situations. Suffice to say Binky has his reasons, and they involve that blonde, who is aspiring showgirl Ruby LeRoy (Jennifer Shine, whose winning comedic flair is pulled straight from the Damon Runyon school of New Yawk chorus goils).
Wackiness ensues when Bertie, through no fault of his own, finds himself engaged to both Ruby and the seemingly severe Vivienne Duckworth (Lydia Berger Gray), an author whose book-in-progress requires immersive research into New York’s speakeasies and other dens of debauchery.
Completing the picture is the gangster Knuckles McCann (David Rice, a dapper hoodlum with seriously impressive knuckle-cracking abilities). It’s McCann’s money that is financing Ruby LeRoy’s Broadway debut, a new musical with the winning title “Naughty Nellie.”
Tough-talking gangsters, slightly blowzy showgirls, an unflappable personal assistant and a pair of rich young men with far more money than sense — does one need anything more for a solid comedy?
No, one does not. Not in the world of First Folio’s “Jeeves Takes a Bow.” Everyone is in fine fettle here, and well deserving of that titular bow.