Frank Capra’s 1934 classic “It Happened One Night” coyly showed weary
journeyer Claudette Colbert hanging her unmentionables up to dry before Clark Gable’s
wet eyes. The great directors knew that by keeping the underpants up, they had the sex
thing down pat. It’s all about the power of titillation through suggestion.
A teasing verboten glimpse, a sliver of silk, a flash of feminine finery and off to
the races goes the most orgasmariffic organ of them all. It’s between our ears-our
imagination. Harbor Theatre’s excellent portrayal of Steve Martins adaptation of a 1910
German satire heralds the timeless truth that the best laughs are at what is most ridiculous
in us as portrayed by others. Laughing protects us from incriminating our own idiocy.
Replete with nimble wit and linguistic prowess, the script weaves a wicked satire
and social commentary by irreverently serving up PG sex jokes, physical comedy,
sophisticated repartee and musings on the working class, gender roles, anti-Semitism and
the illicit seduction of fame. Harbor Theatre is up to the task as it hilariously presents
farcical scenes and situations and double barreled double entendres in “The Underpants”.
As the underpants go down, the curtain comes up on petty uptight German
bureaucrat clerk, Theo Maske. He is spiraling into self absorbed senseless despair since
his lovely wife Louise’s bloomers unintentionally descended during a parade for the king.
A gawking pretentious poet and a weak-willed ineffectual barber witnessing the fantasy
of fallen feminine finery grow hopelessly enamored and more lust struck than adolescents
hiding ‘Playboys’. As the Maske household has a room to rent, the stage is set for
comical vying for another leer at the unruly under things-one way or the other.
Both idiots show up to rent the room and their lascivious longings arouse innocent
nearly virginal Louise to the reality of how truly bored she is with her passionless, cookie
cutter life. All the while, Gertrude, a voyeuristic upstairs busybody, tries to fan the fires.
Sean Scofield confidently tackles the role of the arrogantly priggish Aryan fitness
freak husband, Theo, who spews asinine blowhard idiocy expostulating “that only men
should have affairs.” This is a man who “can’t change his mind because he would then
have nothing to think” and who is overly concerned that his “(bland) job... and... (his
wife’s attractive) appearance does not go together”
Jesika Salt thoughtfully and impressively develops as Louise, his wife, as she
hesitantly emerges from her shell, discovering both brain and libido. In time, she flowers
having “acquired the skills of deception, lying and trickery.”
Andrew C. Nolan embodies Versati, a boorish, hopelessly clueless gentleman
poet so unbearably self-absorbed that he can't complete his seduction of Louise even
though she's eager. Instead, the twit chooses to “pulse his pen onto paper” leaving Louise
steaming in unconsummated forbidden longing.
Type cast, ‘always on’ Trevor Wright nails Cohen, the irritating, self-pitying
whiny hypochondriac barber who is motivated by jealousy. Rachel Quinonez plays
Gertrude, the licentious busy body, lust-by-proxy pushy upstairs neighbor. Sean Frierson
rounds out the cast as the aging and Teutonic Kaiser-adoring dolt with a potty mouth
Director Joseph Delorenzo swings the sharp scythe of satire deftly with mad-cap
mime routines, site gags and smart blocking and pacing; the fundamentals of such over
the top roles. Think quills and drills at duel. Farce is tough to do, physical comedy and
satiric caricature is even tougher, especially for actors just starting out. Directorial strength and guidance is paramount and Mr. Delorenzo’s imprimatur for convincing
farcical portrayals and instinct for nuances is apparent.
Again the Solano Theatre tech team is superb. The clever use of a definitely non
Germanic angular set where symmetry and order are distorted is perfect satire.
Costuming is convincing and character enhancing.
I’ve seen London, been to France and now I’ve seen Harbor Theatres’ production,
“The Underpants”. I loved them all. “The Underpants”- a timeless tour de farce about the
‘panties that launched a thousand quips’. Four stars
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