“One Man, Two Guvnors” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ June 1, 2015


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Two major local theatrical productions debuted recently and I’ll discuss Phoenix Theatre’s production of the British farce “One Man, Two Guvnors” tonight and the new touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” on Thursday.  Neither production comes close to the better presented original productions.

An all-American cast ruins the wildly giddy but decidedly British “One Man, Two Guvnors,” Richard Bean’s harebrained comedy hit, by turning it into a tired and overtly silly dud.  One wonders why a Phoenix based theater known for brilliant productions of American musicals would tackle “One Man, Two Guvnors.”  British farces require the deft comedy skills and impeccable comic timing of English actors.  They also require British audiences who understand the unique sensibilities of the dry and often absurd British jokes and drolly stupid comic situations.

In London, “One Man, Two Guvnors,” with a British cast and audience, was enjoyed with loud guffaws.  I wondered what the talk was about but the play was so enticingly presented that I understood its success.  When the play transferred to New York, producers wisely brought a British cast and it earned seven 2010 Tony Awards in a year on Broadway with few plays.

At Phoenix Theatre, the faults multiply from the opening curtain.  There are inconsistent to non-existent British accents, as well as draggy and sloppy comedy implementation where lightening speed humorous execution is mandated.  The production, directed with no particular funny flair by Pasha Yamotahari, comes off as heavy-handed, artificial, and awkward.  Most significantly, it evokes few honest laughs and it is one of the few recent Phoenix Theatre productions with little audience enthusiasm during the brief curtain calls.

Not one performer from the usually excellent Ron May playing the central role of Francis Henshall to the smallest role is able to extract more than a fraction of the play’s blithely brittle humor.  The story takes place in 1963 and has Henshall becoming guardian to hoodlum Roscoe Crabbe.  As the plot dithers on, Henshall takes on a second job as Stanley Stubbers, another con hiding from the law.  Henshall crafts an elaborate game to differentiate between his two guvnors and it takes an eternity to reach the predictable end when everything is solved as anticipated.  Even some moments of audience participation seem endless and cause little enjoyment.

“One Man, Two Guvnors” continues through June 14.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: F