A good comedy should deliver laughs. Laughter relieves tension and Jeeves in Bloom at the Taproot Theatre relieved enough tension to carry revive us and carry us through a busy week . . . maybe a week and a half.
With the title character Jeeves, those who are not familiar with the P.G. Wodehouse stories of Bertie Wooster, a young English gentleman, and his valet, Jeeves might assume that the storyline revolves around Jeeves. Not quite. An early, early theatrical device was "Deus Ex Machina," which is Latin for "god out of a machine." When the plot got so twisted or the stage got so full of actors a chariot would roll onto the stage and deliver bolts of lightening to clear the stage and the plot.
The German philospher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, said "Out of chaos comes order." Jeeves is the god who simplifies and brings order to the mess that Bertie and his friends have made of virtually every situation. Jeeves is the cavalry, saving the day. He brings order to their little world.
Bertie Wooster has been described as a dim bulb. Director Karen Lund quotes directly from Wodehouse about Bertie and his old school chums, "still in Eden, having never sunk their teeth into the forbidden fruit." Lund sumarizes her approach "In an age of cynicism, Wodehouse reminds us that you can be funny without being cruel, You can be charming without being boring, And you can enjoy some phusical shtick alongside your highbrow sentimental poetry." Lund did an excellent job of directing. Her actors performed like well oiled clocks with personalities and quirks aplenty.
This was our first time at the Taproot. We were ushered down the aisle to front row seats. We were impressed. An English garden was laid out before us. The set was substantial. It looked simple with topiary, fountain, steps, and brick walls, but it was well built. At times I think the entire cast was romping around, through and behind various archtectual features. A lesser stage would have moved, wavered, bounced, or fluttered like a flag in an English breeze.
Rising above the set is a blue screen. Ephemeral clouds of whispy white were projected onto the blue sky and made their way across the screen. Very nicely, done.
Bertie and his friends are always running after or running away from young women, while attempting to stay in the good graces of aunts who would like them to grow up, but this Bertie and his clubmates will never do.
The young woman in question for Jeeves in Bloom is Madeline Basset. Madeline is starry-eyed and loves romantic poetry involving starry nights and broad dramatic gestures. The part is played to a tee by Marianna de Fazio. We last saw her in Noel Coward's Fallen Angels at Theater Schmeater. She did a great job at the Shmee and she does a great job for Taproot. Her costume was a perfect fit. Her dress moved like her poetry . . . whispy and exagerated. Madeline falls for Bertie. Bertie does not want this. Each time Madeline gestures towards him with her hand tilted forward, Bertie tilts backward and away (sometimes only millimeters from her touch).
Bertie is on a mission. He wants to unite Madeline with his pal Augustus Fink-Nottle (Gussie to his friends). Fink-Nottle is played by Randy Scholz. His newt inspired butt-waggle was hilarious. Gussie Fink-Nottle is a noted newt fancier and expert. He knows newts. About young women he knows nothing. He can't speak above a squeek to Madeline. Bertie tries the Cyrano routine of speaking from the shadows for Gussie, but things go wrong. Who would have guessed. Madeline assumes that this ruse was merely done as an avenue for Bertie to make his love known to Madeline. Gussie is not happy with this. Bertie suggests Gussie needs some liquid courage in the form of gin. My favorite scene had Bertie and Gussie wrestling on the ground with Gussie's foot around Bertie's throat. The choreography for this battle was exceptional.
Add in plot turns of a faux burlary, a world-class chef with a missing cook book, an uncle with a loaded shot gun, and enough dim bulbs to go around and you've got a play full of bright spots.
If you can beg, borrow, or connive to get tickets for this production, do so quickly. Or better yet, have Jeeves get them for you.