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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One Man, Two Guvnors

This is the third season that London's National Theatre has been broadcasting live productions of their shows all over the world. I've seen almost every one and I think it is one of the best experiences a theatergoer can have. There is little doubt that the National is one of the finest theater companies in the world and to see one of their productions for slightly more that the price of a movie ticket ($15) is a marvelous opportunity.

Yesterday I attended "One Man, Two Guvenors" at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany and it is an example of how well NT Live has honed the ability to make you feel you are actually in the audience of a live production. "Two Guvs" is a farce. It's one of the more difficult theatrical genres to pull off because the audience must believe the people in the situation believe the crisis they have created even though we know it is improbable. The fun comes from watching high stakes play out knowing the stakes are really low.

Making this event even more difficult is the way the cast interacts with the audience. This is difficult in any circumstance but when it is being done on film it can seem terribly artificial. The cast pulls it off brilliantly.

More specifically James Corden who plays Francis,the man who has a job working for two criminal types without the other knowing about it, is simply marvelous in all aspect of his performance. It's one of those performances that have you thinking why is this guy not famous?

This is not a one-man show. Indeed it uses a large cast and each person is flawless.

I am one of those people who seldom laugh-out-loud in the theater and hardly ever when I am alone. I was by myself yesterday and was laughing loudly for most of the show.

"One Man, Two Guvnors" is based on the 1753 commedia del'arte comedy "The Servant of Two Masters" and it proves funny is funny no matter what century the action takes place. The play uses stock characters that depend on stupidity, ego, lust and greed to make the happenings funny. Those are traits that transcends time.

The first act is farce at its best as the playwright Richard Beane updates the classic play to make it modern and very British. Director Nicholas Hytner sets a fast pace that is exhausting for both the actors and the audience. In fact, there is no way the second act can match the first and the creators do not try. The mood changes more toward vaudeville than farce in act two which is not as frenetic but still very funny.

Truth is the end is welcome as three hours laughter is tiring fun.

"One Man, Two Guvnors" continues at the Spectrum tonight and next Sunday afternoon and Monday evening. NT Live is also available at other venues throughout the region. A disclaimer: the shows at the Spectrum are not broadcast live, the actually show happened last month. It is just as funny.


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