Fantasy, Jealousy and Romance
FST Opening Night
by Steve Martin, Adapted from Carl Sternheim
Prepare your knickers to rise above your knees!
“It’s Steve Martin, he’s wacky, and he’s silly and puts himself out there. The acting was amazing; you will fall for each one of them.” Molly Clancy; FST PR Manager
A sharp comedy set in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1910 that screams Steve Martin with every line that leaves the lips of each character. A husband, whose superiority towards his wife is degrading, leaving her fantasizing, (thanks to her nosey neighbor); about the two men renting a room in their home. The men come knocking when Louise Maske’s knickers accidentally fall to the ground in front of the entire park during the Kings Parade.
If you like high energy fast paced comedies, you will enjoy The Underpants. The quick wit and innuendos such as “Rivers still flow through rusty rivers,” and “You deserve something in you besides sauerkraut,” fly left and right keeping you gasping and giggling in shock and amusement. From the meticulous set design, to the well planned costumes, you are transported to an era where reality makes one want to fantasize.
Jennifer Joan Thompson makes her début at FST as the soft, meek wife Louise Maske. Her character was a bit of stretch since she hasn’t done comedy since she left school, but Director Bruce Jordan helped her find the largeness, scale, stakes and speed of the character. She looks for what she can hold onto and identify with when forming the character,
“I think everyone has this little bird inside of them that wants to get out. Whatever way you’re hymning it in, I think everyone wants to unleash and escape. Finding that little flutter inside her and finding a way to let that out or keep it closed up.”
Gil Brady plays the husband Theo Maske, a government employee who puts himself on a pedestal, treats his wife as if she is less than human and only there to cook and clean for him, “I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t a fun character to lose myself in, in the ways that he is dissimilar to me,” Brady shares with me, “It’s a little bit of a vacation once you get on stage. There is freedom in being awful and though I apologize to Jennifer after every show, it’s fun to swim in that pompous obnoxiousness.”
Encouraging drama in the household is the nosey neighbor Gertrude Deuter played by Mary Ann Conk, who reminds me of Edith from Archie Bunker with her voice and ism’s, “I get Edith, Bette Midler and Carol Burnett to be compared to those wonderful comedy icons for me is just well, thank you. It’s the face, what can I do.” Her character brings energy and vibrancy to the stage, “I love her, and she’s so much fun to play. She lives vicariously and hears everything that is going on upstairs, she really truly loves Louise and that’s why she doesn’t betray her when she has the chance to. She’s very happy that she can make something happen for this girl.” This is Conk’s second time playing this character, “It’s fascinating playing a character you’ve played before, it’s like visiting an old friend who has new things to tell you. The audience is the 7th member of the cast.”
Anxiety out loud is the way I describe Benjamin (Hair) Cohen played by Daryl Embry. His character was the most fun for me to watch. I asked Cohen to describe his character, “My cast mate describes my character as a cross between Kramer and a Velociraptor (Dinosaur), Its tension and anxiety that is bottled up and every once in awhile something will sneak out, but trying to keep a handle on it, but not doing a very good job at it,” we both laugh as he continues, “This guy doesn’t get out much, seeing these underpants at the Kings parade is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him. For him to even think about pursuing it or taking a step in that direction, as exciting as it is, it’s also terrifying to him – he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t take risk and wants to keep everything at arm’s length.”
Benjamin Cohen is a well crafted character, there is a lot of thought that has to go into preparing for it Embry describes, “Anytime you play a character that is so distant from yourself, you have to figure out where it lines up with you – you want to keep it grounded and find the truth in it, even though it’s a character that’s a few steps away. I think about, if I was feeling anxious how does it externalize? It was a difficult character to build in the rehearsal process, there were a lot of steps with a lot of physicality – the tension in my shoulders, always looking around being on guard, the vocals got to a higher pitch because that is what happens when you get nervous.”
The set design for this play is so meticulous making you feel warm and cozy, “The set is one of the best sets I’ve seen here at FST, one of the best I’ve performed on, we had a bang up creative team,” Gil Brady made mention in our conversation. Scenic Designer is Bob Phillips who everyone I spoke to adored.
What brought the show together are the costumes. Sarah Bertolozzi lives in NYC and is contracted from show to show. For the past five years she has been doing costume designing professionally. “1910 is a fun era to work in. We built a great deal for the show and rented pieces from the Asolo Rep as well. Being a comedy we got to play with a lot of bold fun colors.” Bertolozzi tells me the most difficult pieces to find, “German flag underpants are kind of hard to come by – we ended up building those, all period underwear we built.” Thompson explains the importance of costuming for her character, “ It plays a huge role, we are in corsets and the underpants – the costume helped with society at large, the laced up tightness of the corset helps you feel the constraint they are feeling in that period of time. The apron feeling like you are in the home. We had one skirt on purpose that she wanted to keep clean.”
Conk requests her costume early on in the rehearsal process, “We ask for our shoes and a rehearsal skirt. You walk differently, you can’t do this in sneakers and jeans then go to dress rehearsal and put on a skirt, it changes everything. It changes your spatial relationships; it changes how you look when you are crossing stairs, everything you do.” Costumes aren’t just clothing as Gil Brady explains about his character Theo Maske, “He wasn’t done until the mustache grew in and I parted my hair and put on these solid drab colors – It’s the icing on the cake, the last push into the world of the play.” The style is vests, tweed, bold colors, and textures with patterns, Cinderella sleeves and lace.
Tony Tierno and his wife Pauline gave me their thoughts about The Underpants, “Very amusing, different from we are used to, we don’t see too many comedies; they are a nice change of pace.” Enid Fleishman says, “The show is great at the beginning, but got so much funnier in the second half.” I invited Mandy Shantayne Lopez of N8 Talent Management to join me on opening night, “My first experience at FST, surprised at how professional and top-notch the performance was. I would suggest any local theatre patron come watch the show. It’s upbeat, humorous, and hilarious – everyone is good and I had a great time watching it.”
Steve Martin’s, The Underpants sold out for the first week, they even extended the play through August 4th. You still have time to enjoy this hilarious comedy. For tickets call (941)366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.
Upcoming shows are South Beach Babylon and in the fall Spam Alot. Molly Clancy, PR Manager would love to see you on Opening Night, “There is an extra energy and excitement. If you can ever get to a show on opening night, you should. You feel excitement from the actors, they are reacting to the audience, but on opening night it’s a little more amped.”