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COASTAL JOURNAL PREVIEW ...
STUDENTS TO OPEN 'ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS' AT LINCOLN ACADEMY
By Tamara Lilly, for the Coastal Journal
I love all aspects of theater. As someone who has acted, directed, teched, taught, designed and reviewed plays for decades, it’s difficult to watch a show without dissecting it a bit, considering the ingredients that went into the final presentation.
Viewing a rehearsal is sometimes even better, because you get to see - literally - behind the curtain.
Certain types of theater have more “process” than others and the current collaboration between Lincoln Academy Drama and Heartwood Regional Theater is a good example of this.
“One Man, Two Guvnors” is, according the Heartwood press release, “a British farce in the commedia dell’arte style of comedy. Playgoers will recognize the many situations of British comedies and sitcoms in the play, including mistaken identities, physical comedy, stock characters, and a fast-paced story comp l i c a t e d by wacky characters.”
The show, set in 1963 B r i g h t o n , E n g l a n d r e p r e s e n t s the culture of the era, with costuming, décor, language, accents and music reflecting the environment and the pop revolution of the time.
Acts I and II are both opened with sets of “skiffle” music, performed admirably by skinny-tie suited musicians and backup singers in feminine dresses with petticoats and gloves (think youthful Jackie O). The music is not integral to the plot in any way, but is an enjoyable addition to the production and sets the tone of the era.
It’s obvious that the cast and crew have studied the commedia topics required for such a production, and director Griff Braley built a weeks-long lesson plan around it.
“The craft of commedia dell’arte has a unique and incredible history, and our students had to go after learning those styles in the way that they might learn to read music or carry off dance choreography. The work is demanding in all ways, intellectual, physical and emotional. It’s a great challenge, and our audiences will be pleased with the quality of craftsmanship that these kids have developed,” he said.
Choices are made in the physical humor of the show, done purely as a nod to the genre: Extensive pratfalls, repeatedly - and quite convincingly - walking up and down stairs that don’t exist, much opening and closing of doors, and a balance of playing scenes straight and intentionally to the audience.
As this was a rehearsal, the set was not complete, and some bits were being perfected and logistics sorted out.
Sam Bailey, the “One Man” of the title, has the largest role, the largest personality, and the most work with regard to presenting the necessarily confusing text in a way that is both muddled to him and clear to the audience at the same time.
Or is it vice versa. During one scene, he is eating meatballs and doing a bit of math. During this rehearsal, he sorts out mid-chew that eating (and counting up to) nine meatballs is not going to happen if he also needs to be give his next line at the appropriate time.
He announces – with full mouth – that nine is too much.
Director Braley calls out with a chuckle that Sam will then need to adjust the math.
Likely different than with a production of adults, since these are Braley’s students, he calls out direction and reminders as the scenes proceed. Usually one or two words (or a few snaps of his fingers), which remind the cast to draw a moment out longer, play a punch line to the audience, or pick up the pace. Braley addresses the tech crew to reset a prop or set piece that is integral to the playing of a bit or special effect.
This is a rehearsal, but it is also a classroom, of sorts. And these students, who have been learning and practicing and perfecting their craft for months, are nearly ready for their final exam. Opening night.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 and 31, and 3 p.m. Nov. 1, and at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5-7.
Tamara Lilly is a Woolwich native and Studio Theatre of Bath board member with over 30 years’ experience in community theater. She has performed, teched, produced, directed, taught and worked at theaters in Texas, Pennsylvania and Maine. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org