Taproot Theatre offers another Brit comedy of manners by P.G. Wodehouse, “Jeeves Intervenes.”
One of the things Taproot does really well is produce British comedies based on writings from previous generations. It’s especially adept with adaptations of the Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse. If you are a fan of British drawing-room humor or if you have any interest in being introduced to Wodehouse’s not-so-sly commentary on the British class system, this production, directed by Nathan Jeffrey, is for you.
Wodehouse, born in 1881, knew well the Victorian and Edwardian eras — knew their snobbish views of life, their sexual repression and their inflexible class system.
In this stage adaptation by Margaret Raether of one of his many short stories featuring Jeeves the valet and Bertie Wooster, the blundering dandy whom he serves, Wodehouse hilariously pokes fun at a society where money, status and show are almost all that matter for the affluent.
By P.G. Wodehouse, adapted by Margaret Raether. Through June 20, Taproot Theatre Company, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle; $15-$40 (206-781-9707 or taproottheatre.org).
Foppish, foolish, wealthy Bertie (Ian Bond) seems incapable of making a wise decision. His valet Jeeves (Chris Ensweiler) seems incapable of making a wrong decision. Though he’s ever mindful of his place in society, the resourceful Jeeves always cleverly rescues Bertie from disaster.
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Disasters are many in this tale. Older relatives, including Bertie’s interfering Aunt Agatha (Kim Morris), appear unexpectedly. Unsolicited matchmaking efforts are foisted on poor Bertie. False identities must be assumed.
Bertie’s equally carefree friend Eustace (David Roby) shares Bertie’s worldview and lack of competence.
When his elderly uncle Sir Rupert (the imposing Stephen Grenley) sends word he’s on his way to visit after a stint in India, poor Eustace is in deep trouble. He’s short of cash and lives less elegantly than Bertie. This embarrassing fact must be hidden from his snobby uncle, so Bertie and Eustace come up with a plan. We all know that no good can come of this.
And it doesn’t. Instead we have interpersonal confusions, double-entendres, imperious elders and an abundance of physical humor where timing is everything. The entire cast moves with the agility of circus performers as they perform their tricks.
Jeeves has been depicted on stage and TV many times. In a 1990s TV series, Steven Fry created what many think was the definitive Jeeves. Ensweiler as Jeeves captures all the efficiency of this uncommonly capable character, but might have given a bit more gravitas to the role.
This all plays out on Mark Lund’s deco stage where the black-and-gray geometric wall deserves mention for providing a stunning backdrop for the action.
Jeeves offers the last words: “One does endeavor to give satisfaction, sir.” Overall, cast members and production crew succeed at this admirably.