30 July 2016

A Gentleman's Guide...to Comedy

Just after the ensemble's “A Warning to the Audience,” Montague Navarro (Kevin Massey) begins by telling how he learned of his mother's disinheritance...because she loved a Castilian musician.

Robert Freeman and Steven Lutvak based “A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder” on Roy Horniman's “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal.” Their work won best musical at the 2014 Tony Awards and is playing in Seattle this weekend.
Navarro's new relatives, the D'Ysquiths, all played by John Rapson, turn out insufferable in all ways Edwardian nobility is insufferable to current sensibilities—social conventions, imperialism...banking.

Freeman said in the program interview, "...they're all loathsome in different ways, but in kind of the same way, in their attitude toward the little people, and their arrogance, which is silly. They are all silly people too."

And they all end up dying to hilarious effect...often as much from their silliness as from Navarro's opportunism. One is an inebriated clergyman, one an arrogant womanizer, one an entitled, gay beekeeper, one a vegetarian health nut, et cetera, et cetera. Their silliness is very up to date.

But there are two things taken seriously, namely love—or one popular conception of it, between mother and son and the etherial part of love between lovers that isn't institutional or physical—also, getting one's due. And, though I'm not sure this is how one thinks when setting out to be funny, it seems like taking these things seriously allows everything else to be funny.

It's a deconstructed Oliver Optic, believable because of the initial injustice and because director Darko Tresnjak and the cast tell the story on a stage within a stage, visualizing several different sides of the story.

The protagonist appears to some a picture of virtue and industry...even while relatives keep dying...and he keeps getting richer and ends up with a wife and a mistress.

“As time has gone by,” Lutvak said in the same interview, “I realize that what we are, in a way is a very low comedy in a very fancy box....”

Clever and thought provoking, as much from what it takes seriously as for what it finds funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment