Produced by Cathy Partridge, Directed by Chris Francom
THE UNDERPANTS, written by comedy legend Steve Martin, opened September 29 at the Oshawa Little Theatre. It is one hell of a cleverly written nonsensical tale that requires actors who must trust each other implicitly in order to make this show soar high.
Under the confident hands of Director Chris Francom and Producer Cathy Partridge, all members of the production team have staged successfully a hilarious, ribald comedy in every sense of the word through the use of burlesque, farce and bawd. You have to pay attention to every single word in order to get so many of the references. Thankfully, at the opening night performance, each actor could be heard which is a bonus if this gem is to unravel at breakneck speed. Although the play is meant to be performed with no intermission, this production places a suitable twenty minute break while still managing to pick up the pace immediately following.
It is Dusseldorf, 1910 where, horror upon horrors, a very public wardrobe malfunction has occurred. Louise Maske's underpants fall down at a parade for the King which becomes the talk of the town. Amidst all of this confusion for the young woman, we also have sexual innuendo mixed in with verbal wordplay combined with the pressures of instant fame.
As producer, I'm sure Cathy Partridge has breathed a sigh of relief in understanding that it is her job to know every element of this period piece came together. And it does, magnificently. To stage period pieces in community theatre is quite the challenge from a budgetary perspective, and this production's set catches the eye as soon as you enter the theatre.
Chris Francom has a keen eye for design. He has captured a highly functional and spacious boarding house and living room complete with many doors common in farce for people to exit and enter quickly. Elizabeth Allen's lighting design is subtle and allows the audience to see the action in every corner of the stage. Kudos to all crew involved in finding an authentic looking stove and icebox from the early 1900s.
As always, OLT's standard in costume design is stellar, and Brenda Clarkson's and Cynthia Garland's work does not disappoint whatsoever. Makeup and hair design by Donna Lajeunesse evoke nicely the turn of the twentieth century, a time of change in many areas. Finally, a congratulatory note to Cheryl Van Vliet as Stage Manager who holds the daunting task to ensure everyone and everything is in its proper place.
As Louise and Theo Maske, Jennie Archambault and Garret Lee are a riot from their opening sexist dialogue. To handle and to hold this well timed banter required a great deal of skill, and both actors appear comfortable in tackling this challenge from the get go.
Jane HIckey deliciously plays the nosy sexpot neighbour, Gertride Deuter, with fine aplomb. Josh Sanger, as the dashing, debonair and 'full of himself' Frank Versati, devilishly seduces both Louise and the audience with great assurance, especially in the moment where Louise must cool herself off in the icebox after this young man's advances. Lincoln Trudeau's performance of the sickly Benjamin Cohen is hysterical. It was wonderful to see community theatre veterans Alan Nichols and David Cooke back on the stage as Klinglehoff and The King. Their solid performances further added to the side splitting laughter of the opening night audience.
It was a wise choice to open the 2016-2017 season with the selection of a fine comedy. I hadn't read the script so I had no idea what I was going to experience, and I was not disappointed in the least. Performances of THE UNDERPANTS continue October 1, 6-8, 13 – 15 at 8 pm with a 2 pm matinee on October 9. Tickets may be purchased at the door.