Another ‘Jeeves’ promises laughs at First Folio
Christian Gray, Jim McCance, Kevin McKillip in "Jeeves Takes a Bow."
‘Jeeves Takes a Bow’
First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st Street and Route 83, Oak Brook
8 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 2-March 3
(630) 986-8067; www.firstfolio.org
Take a series of witty British plays, add a cast of actors with superb comic timing, serve to your audience and watch what happens.
Alison C. Vesely has discovered she’s got a surefire formula for fun at First Folio Theatre.
The artistic director said that tickets are already moving quickly for “Jeeves Takes a Bow,” her company’s third production of a Margaret Raether comedy based on P.G. Wodehouse stories about wealthy ne’er do well Bertie Wooster and his ever faithful valet Jeeves.
“I’ve been a Wodehouse fan for years and years and years,” said Vesely, who also directed the two earlier Jeeves shows: “Jeeves Intervenes” (2008) and “Jeeves in Bloom” (2010). She chose “Jeeves Takes a Bow” this time around because, “It’s a change of venue for Bertie. He’s in New York interacting with Americans. It touches on the whole New York theater scene so there’s a lot of fun new elements that make it a really interesting tale.”
Those elements include gangsters, chorus girls and a new Broadway musical.
The setting may have changed but the faces will be familiar. Once again, Christian Gray plays Bertie and Jim McCance is Jeeves.
“It’s a hoot,” Gray said of the role. “For those people who perform P.G. Wodehouse, it is the iconic character of his stories. All of this is pure silliness. There’s very little social commentary. It’s just intelligent fluff and very funny. Many modern comics cite P.G. Wodehouse as one of their inspirations to get into comedy.”
Gray described Bertie as “a wastrel. He’s a good egg. He’s very nice, very charming but he has very little brain capacity. He has a real talent for getting himself into trouble and he relies on Jeeves to extricate him from these various situation — sometimes not of his own doing. But often he makes the situations worse by thinking for himself and acting for himself and trying to take command of the situation, which he’s not capable of doing.”
As for Bertie’s cohorts, Gray added, “His friends are equally, if not more, inept at life and anything else that they do as he is.”
Thank goodness for Jeeves. “He’s charming and everybody immediately trusts Jeeves,” Gray said.
Actor McCance described Jeeves as being “hyper-competent in a very quiet way.” He noted that some people think of Jeeves as almost being Bertie’s guardian angel.
Playing the role is enjoyable, McCance said, because of “the extent to which Jeeves plays his cards close to his vest. Bertie is not sharp enough to have any idea how Jeeves manages to think up the solutions that Bertie gets himself into.”
The stories are so cleverly put together that even viewers “can’t quite figure out, until it happens, exactly what Jeeves is up to,” McCance noted, “and how he’s going to affect solutions or rescue [Bertie] from the unintended engagements and other social gaffes that Bertie is so prone to.”
McCance has a feeling that in taking care of Bertie, Jeeves “somewhat enjoys the threatening chaos in the way that other people would enjoy a puzzle.”
And the master definitely appreciates the servant. Working with McCance is “a blast,” said his three-time Wodehouse play partner Gray. “We’re both on the same page.”