I didn’t find THE UNDERPANTS as “laugh-out-loud funny” as the New York Times did but director Daniel Gidron has brought together the right assortment of clowns and has made the non-stop nonsense spin down to the last inflection and the clicking of heels.
note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Theo Maske … Steven Barkhimer
Louise Maske … Caroline Lawton
Gertrude Dueter … Stephanie Clayman
Frank Versati … Lewis D. Wheeler
Benjamin Cohen … Neil A. Casey
Klinglehoff … Robert Bonotto
King … M. J. J. Cashman
I am not familiar with “Die Hosen”, Carl Sternheim’s 1910 German farce on which Steve Martin has based his romp THE UNDERPANTS but sense that Mr. Martin has not improved on its fluffy plot about a bourgeois wife whose undergarments fall down in public while waving to the King during a parade; her clock-watching, penny-pinching husband is mortified and two men who witnessed the incident suddenly move in as boarders (one man is a foppish poet; the other, a nebbish barber trying not to betray his Jewishness) --- seduction is in the air and that is precisely where it stays; a deus ex machina in the form of the King himself has little unraveling to do. I didn’t find THE UNDERPANTS as “laugh-out-loud funny” as the New York Times did but Mr. Martin gives a good demonstration of what old-time German farce was like: warm, cozy and just a bit stuffy.
If the Huntington Theatre’s current offering is bereft of style, the Lyric Stage’s evening is awash with it: director Daniel Gidron has brought together the right assortment of clowns and has made the non-stop nonsense spin down to the last inflection and the clicking of heels. Steven Barkhimer (the husband) and Neil A. Casey (the barber) do their now-familiar thing --- the former, full of bombast with his arms hanging limply at his sides; the latter, quivering with the emotion of the moment and grinning rabidly --- but being inserted into these UNDERPANTS and bouncing off each other make them appear fresh and new, and Stephanie Clayman blessedly downplays the nosey neighbor, sidling in and out and leaving mischief in her wake. Robert Bonotto, another character actor whom Boston should hold close to its heart, becomes a demented wind-up toy as yet another boarder-wannabe and as the poet, Lewis D. Wheeler continues to play on the surface but could evolve into that rare theatre bird: a dapper light comedian at home in period musicals and boulevard farce. Several times I have seen Caroline Lawton, tough as nails, in the long-running SHEAR MADNESS and now she contributes a handsome, deadpan wife: at first Ms. Lawton seems overwhelmed by her fellow scene-stealers but her performance, slightly retarded (in the musical sense), proves to be the espresso beneath the others’ schlag; a naughty innocent who has Greatness --- and men --- thrust upon her.