Sunday December 17th 2017

“Jeeves Takes A Bow”

jeeves Recommended*** If any of you remember the glory days of Shady Lane Farm Playhouse in Marengo, or even some of the early shows at the Forum in Summit, attending the current production at First Folio Theatre, will bring back some fond memories. Why don’t more theater companies look at the bright side of life and bring back some of the oldies, plays that were written to take one’s mind off the crazy world we live in? Why not a “Getting Gertie’s Garter”, “Critic’s Choice” or even “Up In Mabel’s Room”? Well, fans, those of you who just want a laugh or two ( or even more), First Folio’s production of “Jeeves Takes a Bow” will give you almost two hours of silliness, zaniness, and of the most importance, laughs!.Based on the short stories by P.G. Woodhouse ( who created Jeeves), Margaret Raether has written a farcical look at some English characters, now in New York and the entanglement they have with the ‘locals”. Despite all the ups and downs of these wealthy individuals, it is the butler Jeeves who solves all problems and creates the happy ending.

This is the third installment based on these short stories and it is a fun-filled two hours of comedy. As n all English comedies/farces, the first 20 minutes is important as we get some history on each of the characters, so here it moves a bit slower, but once we know all the players, this talented cast, directed to perfection by Allison C. Vesely ( who is also the Artistic Director for First Folio), truly captures our hearts and funny-bones. The set by Angela Miller is divine on the very open stage that is part of First Folio located on the beautiful Mayslake Peabody  Estate in Oakbrook. This room which I understand was the chapel back in the day, has been converted to a very high ceiling theater with great sight lines, comfortable seats  and a stage that allows you to “break the fourth wall” with ease.

To make a play of this type work, it takes actors who are skilled in comic timing and very agile as there is a great deal of stumbling, chasing and movement that must be timed to perfection. These actors truly have it down. Jim McConn is the ideal Jeeves ( he has played the role in the previous two productions and has just the right touch to be funny) and is the only truly sane character as he  brings  it all together. The story line is about  his “master”Bertie Wooster ( deftly handled by Christian Gray) a wealth Englishman  who has taken up residence in New York ( the time is 1932) during prohibition. An old friend comes to visit him, Binky ( the very agile Kevin McKillip) who has stopped  in New York on his way to being a diplomat and decided to try out for a play where he has fallen madly in love with the leading lady Ruby ( played to perfection as  the “dumb blond” stereotype by Jennifer Shine). Binky , not wanting to be found out by his family has used Bertie’s name and this is where it gets a bit confuing ( which is the nature of the animal). Ruby’s father, who appears to be her boyfriend is a gangster, Knuckles McConn ( a surprise performance by the executive director of First Folio, David Rice, who is quite the dancer and handles this role as if he were born to play a gangster), who is also the producer of the show. Of course, the boys and the audience do not find all of this out until mush later. As you know in a farce, there are either many doors or many mistaken identities along the way. The last character in the play, is one Vivienne Duckworth ( marvelously played by Lydia Berger Gray) who has come from England to write a book about New York and its difference and to marry Bertie ( the real Bertie), Bertie also gets engaged to Ruby, but as Binky, not Bertie. See, I told you this is filled with mistaken identities.

For almost two hours, we watch these characters get involved in each other’s lives. In the middle of the second act, there is a musical play within a play ( an adorable little comedy) where the truth becomes revealed and all the loose ends are tied up, by Jeeves, of course and Ruby ends up with the real Binky, Knuckles with Vivienne, who has let her hair down and become quite the “hip” lady and Bertie is left alone, but with Jeeves to guide his bachelor life. While this show is not as wild as, let’s say “lend Me A Tenor’, it is funny and fun filled and will certainly take your mind off any stress of the day. During Intermission, you will be served cookies and tea ( how very English) and you can stroll through a wonderful gallery of art.

“Jeeves” will continue at First Folio through March 3rd with performances as follows:jeeves2

Wednesdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $26-$37 ( a great price for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling 630-986-8067 or online at www.firstfolio.org where you can also learn more about this vibrant company- by the way, they build an outdoor stage for the summer months, where you can enjoy live theater as if you were on a picnic.

The Mayslake Peabody Estate is located in The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, just off Route 83 at 31st street ( about a block and a half west of 83 ( there is an exit) on your left. The drive is long, but well maintained and there is plenty of free parking. Well worth the trip.

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com  go to Review Round-up and click on “Jeeves Takes a Bow”

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