theatre review: ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS

ABET opened “One Man, Two Guvnors,” a comedy about food, money and sex, on October 24, 2014. Written by English playwright Richard Bean, it will remain on stage through November 9 at 710 Ocean Boulevard in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Call (904) 249-7177 or visit for additional information.If you planned a visit to England this year but for some reason could not go, well, relax, ABET to the rescue with authentic British comedy. This show debuted in London in May 2011 where, with the exception of a brief tour, it remained until March, 2014. The play was highly acclaimed in the London press as “One of the funniest productions in National Theatre history” and “a massive hit.” It is currently on tour in the UK, with performances scheduled through May, 2015.The play opened on Broadway in 2012 where it ran for a respectable six months, and was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning the Best Actor Award.A brief plot summary is a given in any review, but for farces, we try to keep it simple so we don’t reveal the playwright’s surprises. This stunning comedy is set in Brighton, England in 1963 and features a couple of gangsters, a dishonest attorney , an egotistical and boastful actor, curvaceous ladies, and a man who is trying to serve two hoodlums without letting on to either that he is working for the other. And you will find lots of what you would expect in this genre, with cross-dressing, prate falls, mistaken identities, door slamming, ad-libbing, and audience participation.

The play is not a musical but is instead a play with music, provided by a marvelous skiffle band, an important part of the show. Not familiar with skiffle? It is a mix of jazz and country that was popular in the US back in the ’20s, but faded in the ’40s. However, the British revived it in the early ’50s as a sort of mix of rock and roll and bluegrass. Early skiffle used many homemade instruments and in this show you will find a musician using a washboard. You will love listening to the playing and the vocals of Stefanie Batson (Keyboard), Misha Frayman (Guitar), Damon Martin (Bass) and Michael Taylor (Percussion).

You may have seen a number of the cast members in other shows in local theatres. Alec Hadden as Alan is a larger than life wannabe actor who shows off his well-trained baritone voice in a solo. Hadden, a recent JU graduate, has been seen in “Drood,” “Les Misérables,” “Tommy” and “9 to 5,” just to name a few credits.

Kristen Walsh plays Pauline Clench, who has agreed to marry him, as Roscoe Crabbe, her previous intended, has reportedly met an untimely end. Ms. Walsh has had impressive roles in two 5 & Dime productions, “33 Variations” and “The Pittman Players.”

Matt Tomkins is Charlie “The Duck” Clench, Pauline’s father, a gangster who owed Roscoe Crabbe a considerable sum of money prior to his death . Tomkins, a master of comic timing, has previously appeared at Theatre Jacksonville in “Figaro,” where he played two very different hilarious characters; he also appeared in “Les Misérables” and “Lombardi.”

Jack Barnard appears as Lloyd Boateng, a very wise and funny older ex-con. Barnard, who is making his 27th appearance on ABET’s stage, is one of the finest character actors on our local stages.

Miles Para is the proper but sexy and outspoken Dolly, in search of a romantic interest. She has previously appeared at Theatre Jacksonville in “Is He Dead” and “As You Like It.”

Jim Warren plays three roles as a driver, policeman and barman. We loved him best as the stone-faced policeman in this show. Mr. Warren got back into acting after a prolonged absence by honing his skills with the Vintage Players, and then appearing in “Anything Goes,” “Hotbed Hotel,” and “White Christmas” at Orange Park Community Theatre.

Lucas Hopper is impressive as the energetic small-time gangster and unrepentant murderer, Stanley Stubbers. Mr. Hopper has made two previous appearances locally with Theatre Jacksonville as Paul Hornung in “Lombardi” and Timothy Cleary in “The Subject was Roses.”

Bill White appears as the appealing Alfie, a very funny waiter, 87 years old, who gets knocked about like a ping-pong ball and dies a couple of times, but is saved by his pacemaker. White has been in many, many shows, about fifteen, during the past nine years since he became involved with community theatre.

Four members of the cast were newcomers to the local theatre scene. All were impressive and we are looking forward to future appearances from them.

Jerry Redfield plays the shady lawyer Harry Dangle, who is the father of Alan. He brings an impressive resume from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas and we are sure to see more of him in the future.

Sebastian John Inks plays the leading man of the title, as Francis, with two bosses that he juggles awkwardly throughout. As Francis, he is very much in command of the stage and a funny guy. His experience with the Mad Cowford Improv Group is evident when he becomes involved in ad-libbing.

Blythe Scott is Rachel Crabbe, who spends most of the time dressed as a man badly in need of a shave as she impersonates Roscoe, her dead twin brother. Why? We leave that for you to discover when you see the show. Ms. Scott has been a part of Gary Baker’s Improv classes at ABET, and previous did film and TV work in New York. Thankfully, she sheds the wig and beard before the end of this play and we can see how attractive she really is.

Colin Morgan is making his community theatre debut playing two roles, as Gareth, who is a chef, and as a policeman. In addition he choreographed the fight scenes. We saw him in “Pink” at Club Metro a couple of months ago. He has a BA in theatre and music from Nova University.

Director J. C. Wells designed the uncluttered set as an open stage with dusky rose walls and various props moved on and off. The simple room with three openings works perfectly for the many frantic entrances and exits of the cast.

Stage Managers, Ashley Macko and Julian Andreu (who also appeared in a cameo role as a Boy Scout) kept things moving and produced the many food props right on schedule. Kimberly Berry as Costume Designer chose clothes with a clearly British look from the ’60s, which included vests and jackets for the men, and short skirts for the women.

Others in the all important Production Team included Bryan and Gordon Frank for Lighting, Stefanie Batson as Musical Director, and Sheena Knott as the Light Board Operator.

This unusual play is fast-paced and well acted by the entire company. You will love the music. Be forewarned there is some ribald humor at times, but it zips by quickly.

Director J. C. Wells does a marvelous bit of directing this excellent cast during two hours or more of zaniness. And one of the great things about the cast is the mix of established local talent with a number of talented newcomers making their community theatre debuts.


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.