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Steve Martin’s Adaptation “The Underpants”

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Uses Comic Setting to Touch on Variety of Issues

TR Robertson

TR Robertson — Playwright, actor, musician, writer, filmmaker, comedian Steve Martin has taken a play, written in 1912 that satirized the moral standards of the German middle class, massaged the context, made a few minor adjustments, brought the language into the 21st century and the result is a fast paced, witty, funny look at a multitude of social issues. The play Martin adapted is “Die Hose” by German playwright and short story writer Carl Sternheim. Sternheim’s play represents German Expressionism and was a little controversial at the time it appeared and all of his plays would be banned in the 1930’s when fascism began to surface in Germany.

Steve Martin has received numerous awards from a variety of media venues. He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2013, is a five time Grammy Award winner in both music and comedy fields, has been nominated for Golden Globe Awards, his plays “Meteor Shower” and “Bright Star” were on Broadway and were nominated for numerous Tony Awards, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and won a New York Critics Circle Award.

Photos by Jim Cox

“The Underpants” is a little bawdy, slightly irreverent, full of sexual innuendos and puns and skirts political and religious references both historically and current. All of this is due to a simple social faux-pas. A young, married woman gets up on a table for a better view of the King as he drives through Dusseldorf, only to have her underwear slip and fall to feet. To make matters even worse for the young lady, when she bends over to pull them up, as she raises her dress, a little more of her is exposed than she wants the public to see. Herein, the story begins.

Louise Maske is married to an uptight, conventional government employee, Theo Maske, and Theo is not happy about what has happened to his wife and what he feels will be detrimental to his social position. Add to this the fact that Theo and Louise have not had sex in a year having been unsuccessful in producing a child. Theo continually makes very chauvinistic statements to his wife like, “It’s always the woman’s fault”. The Maske’s have been trying to rent out a spare room and as a result of the slipping undergarment, several room renters appear. The first is a lovelorn poet, Frank Versati, who calls Louise his muse and inspiration from the unfortunate event. The second is an equally lovelorn, very excitable gentleman, Benjamin Cohen, who continually tries to cover-up his Jewish background. Back and forth the two men bicker and both end up renting and sharing the spare room. Cohen says he has arrived to protect Louise from the amorous intentions of Versati. Louise is convinced, by upstairs nosey neighbor Gertrude Deuter, that it is her best interest to have an affair with Versati. Gertrude even gets swept away by the thought of the possible affair. Throwing even more of a twist in the goings on is the arrival of another possible renter, Klinglehoff, a very straight laced, extremely conservative renter who doesn’t even know about Louise’s social faux-pas. Even with all of the possible relationship occurrences, the conflict between Versati and Cohen, Gertrude’s plotting of an affair takes place with Theo not having a clue and even smirking at the thought of such a happening. But, wait until you see what happens between Gertrude and Theo, as well as what happens when the King arrives and announces he needs a room to rent. What happens to Louise while all of this is going on, will she finally break free from the confines of the stale marriage she is in?

Martin has taken the bulk of the script from Sternheim’s play, brought the play into the 21st century while keeping the play in the historical time period of the turn of the 20th century Germany and he has created an entertaining comical farce. Playing the excitable housewife, Louise, is Regina De Vera, who has done graduate training at Julliard School. Regina flows easily through the role as both the controlled wife and the woman desiring more from a relationship. Playing her domineering husband, Theo, is Eddie Kaye Thomas, who has extensive theatre experience from New York theatre companies as well as a number of television appearances. Eddie is masterful in his presentation of the snooty, overly socially and politically concerned Theo who is blind to what is happening around him.

Luis Vega plays Frank Versati, the love struck poet, and has performed throughout the country including at the La Jolla Playhouse in “Seize the King”. The second suitor, playing the over-the-top Cohen, is Michael Bradley Cohen. Both of these gentleman are perfectly cast as they battle back and forth each with similar, yet different intentions with respect to Louise. Entering toward the end of the play, as another hopeful renter, is Jeff Blumenkrantz as Klinglehoff. Jeff is a veteran Globe performer and was in Martin’s “Bright Star” at the Ahmanson Theatre. As the cranky Klinglehoff, Blumenkrantz is most believable as he lists what he demands from the Maske as the renters. An audience favorite as the nosey neighbor, Gertrude Deuter, who desires to live out her own romantic desires through Louise, is Joanna Glushak. Glushak has been in numerous Broadway and Off Broadway productions as well a national touring productions. In and out she appears at just the right moment to “help” Louise reach her romantic goal. She tells Louise she has done her job as a friend when she has taught her “Deception, lying and trickery” and when that is done “my little girl is all grown-up”. Kris Zarif plays the King and has a previous appearance at the Globe in “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.

“The Underpants” is directed by accomplished actor and director Walter Bobbie. His Creative Team includes Scenic Designer John Lee Beatty, Costume Designer Alejo Vietti, Lighting Designer Philip S. Rosenberg, Sound Designer Nevin Steinberg, and Production Stage Manager Marie Jahelka.

This delightful comical farce is performed in the Sheryl and Harvey White theatre at the Conrad Prebys Theater Center of The Old Globe. Ticket prices start at $30.00 and “The Underpants” has been extended to September 8th. Tickets are available at www.TheOldGlobe.org or call 619-234-5623.

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  • Published: 2 weeks ago on August 6, 2019
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  • Last Modified: August 6, 2019 @ 12:22 am
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