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CSC “Guv’nor” Unimpeachably Hysterical

CSCGuvnorsImageI have been looking forward all year to see the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s regional premier of One Man, Two Guv’nors, after having seen the original version on the London Stage. The play, based on Italian Commedia Dell’Arte with a good dash of vaudeville, Monty Python, and audience participation thrown in, requires tremendous energy and comic flair; as usual, CSC did not disappoint, providing an uproarious production every bit as entertaining as the original. Key to success is a charming and both physically and verbally gifted leading man to play Francis Henshall, our everyman protagonist who juggles the demands of two bosses while simultaneously looking for a good meal and a good…woman. Matthew Lewis Johnson, who wowed theatre-goers last year as Falstaff in CSC’s Henry IV, was perfectly cast and once again demonstrated his impeccable comic timing and connection with the audience. He was backed up by CSC’s outstanding stable of character actors , highlighted by the eternally reliable Justin Combs, Miranda McGee, and especially Jeremy Dubin as the nonagenarian waiter, Alfie. Certainly not to be forgotten are “The Shakes”, the jazzy/bluesy skiffle band who provide entertaining musical interludes throughout the show, led by Kelly Mengelkoch, Cary Davenport and other CSC regulars who for a change of pace got to show off their musical talents. Finally, kudos to director Brian Isaac Phillips who nailed the pace and timing of this non-stop foolishness.

One Man Two Guv’nors may not be high art—maybe not even high comedy. But it’s an irreverent homage to the art of comedy itself that breaks down the fourth wall of theater and never fails to surprise and amuse. Tickets are almost sold out, although two shows have recently been added, so don’t miss this production. I hope CSC continues to take similar opportunities to produce fresh, contemporary productions with enough of a classical twist to fit into their otherwise traditional repertoire.