The Underpants

[The following review appeared in the Denver Post on August 13th.]

The multitalented Steve Martin—comedian, actor, screenwriter, playwright, novelist, musician, and composer—has a way of getting to the heart of the matter while making us laugh.

Haley Johnson as Louise and Chris Bleau as Versati
Haley Johnson as Louise
and Chris Bleau as Versati
In the current Miners Alley Playhouse production of Martin's adaptation of this early 20th Century German comedy, Rick Bernstein applies his directorial prowess with full farcical force and delivers an hilarious take on the power of eroticism over our minds and the ways we try to hide this from ourselves.

The young beauty, Louise (Haley Johnson), was standing on a chair to catch a glimpse of the King during a parade when her bloomers inadvertently slipped off, causing quite a stir.

Paige Lynn Larson as Gertrude and John Greene as Theo
Paige Lynn Larson as Gertrude
and John Greene as Theo
Her husband, Theo (John Greene), is upset by Louise's sudden notoriety, mostly because it threatens his clerical position in the bureaucracy. Theo has been abstaining from sex with Louise because he believes that his current income is inadequate to support a child.

Theo's solution is to rent out their extra bedroom so he can fulfill his matrimonial responsibilities, which sets off a series of misadventures with potential boarders drawn to the domicile by Louise's wardrobe malfunction.

Johnson's nuanced expressions and her shtick around Louise's hyperbolic infatuation with Versati (Chris Bleau), a local lothario and wannabe poet, is the fire that keeps this plot boiling. Bleu is charming as the velvet-swathed randy dandy, while Greene is the perfect foil—the epitome of petite bourgeois mentality and bombastic chauvinism that are prime targets of the original playwright's satire.

When Louise's friend and neighbor Gertrude (Paige Lynn Larson) gets a load of Versati, she persuades Louise that it's time for her to have an affair, and sets about fashioning a suitable pair of underpants to give to Louise for the occasion. Larson is a hoot as the overheated romantically challenged voyeur.

Other than Versati, who makes no bones to Louise about his intimate intentions, the suitors include (K)ohen (Christian Mast), a Chassidic hair stylist, and Klinglehoff (Dell Domnick), a Teutonic scientist.

Mast's kvetching send up is a constant source of guffaws, not to mention his seductive footwork. Domnick's lip-quivering libidinous breakdown from lock-step empirical efficiency, as Louise toys with him, is fun from every angle.

Finally, the King himself (or is it?) shows up to woo Louise, whose response brings the story full circle. A little more zaniness at this moment would have gone a long way; nevertheless The Underpants is a barrel of laughs.

Richard H. Pegg's playfully askew set and Ann Piano's archetypal costumes amplify the inanity. The German, French, and Yiddish dialect work is a delight.

A little lace goes a long ways. It's what you don't see that demands your interest.

The Miners Alley Playhouse's production of The Underpants runs through August 29th. 303-935-3044.

Bob Bows


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