"JEEVES and the NASTY BUSINESS"
Reviewed by Chris Tower
Published June 1995, Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer
Sir Pelham Grenville -- or P.G. -- Wodehouse earned a reputation as one of the premier British humorists during the early years of the 20th century. John Sherwood has adapted to the stage several of Wodehouse's tales of aristocratic farce, and he and the cast of the Victorian Villa Summer Theatre Fetival have surmounted a delightfully rich and captivating production of the stories, "Jeeves and the Nasty Business," at the Victorian Villa in Union City.
P.G. Wodehouse's preeminent stories of the antics of London's wealthy and privileged ran consistently in "Strand Magazine" and "Punch Magazine" at the turn of the century. His tales of Bertie Wooster and his redoubtable man-servant, Jeeves, became the favorite diversion of almost every literate British person from then until after World War II, when (he was) wrongly suspected of collusion with the Nazis. Wodehouse became a favorite humorist of American audiences.
Most of Wodehouse's tales involve some heinous predicament, better known as "scandals" in those days, in which Bertie finds himself regarding family, friends or potential matrimonial prospects. The humor comes from how cleverly Jeeves manages to extricate his master from these dreadful catastrophes.
Sherwood's adaptation of the stories remains unerringly faithful to the style and verve of Wodehouse's high comedy and wit, as do the performances. Sherwood plays the part of Bertie Wooster with well-calculated panache and perfect timing. His accent is so flawless, you would swear he is a Brit.
Likewise, Marv Boyes' unflappable Jeeves is the consummate straight man to Sherwood's impish dilettante. Boyes is unwaveringly calm and directed as the capable man-servant, extricating poor, misguided Bertie from many scrapes and managing to dictate the proper mode of fashion and demeanor simultaneously.
Katari Brown and Nathan Sherwood play the remaining characters with great comic flair. Both performers play three different characters well, showing remarkable control and diversity in keeping the roles separate and distinct.
But it's the tales themselves that are the stars of the evening. These three romps through the perils of British idolatry for a young, wealthy man of questionable character, such as Bertie Wooster, are very funny alone, but Jeeves sends the humor over the top.
As Bertie descends into hopeless dilemmas, either avoiding women whom his Aunt Agatha finds suitable or attempting to placate his fiancee's outrageous prenuptial requests, Jeeves arrives veritably in the nick of time.
Contact JOHN C. SHERWOOD by e-mail.
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