Theater Review: Jeeves and Bertie return…
By Edith McCauley
Jeeves in Bloom is another of Margaret Raether’s adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories of Jeeves, the classic English butler, and Bertie Wooster, the flighty gentleman whose escapades can only be resolved with a common-sense approach. Previous productions were light and incorporated many aspects of British comedy. This work is a bit heavy-handed.
Artists’ Ensemble, a reputable, professional company, consists of the finest talent. Its actors, directors and technical staff with their years of experience have staged some of the most outstanding theater in our community, and their upcoming season offers more of the same, but I’m not sure if Jeeves in Bloom was the best choice for their opening.
Performed in Rockford College’s Maddox Theatre, the space seemed too large. Noel Rennerfeldt’s stunning walled English garden provides the country setting for the madcap action. There is hardly a moment when the entrances and exits are not in use.
The play begins on a strident note, and there is little action to give it balance. Gary Wingert, as Jeeves, gives a dignified portrayal and offers us a few quiet moments. Steve Vrtol III is Thomas Travers and also plays the French chef Anatole. Both roles, manic interpretations of familiar English characters, are those we’ve seen in contemporary British comedy. His French accent was definitely that of Poirot. Linda Abronski is Dahlia Travers, Bertie’s aunt whose plots complicate the story. The love interest lies with Lydia Berger (Madeline) and often speechless, but never calm, Augustus Fink-Nottle (Kyle Adams. His preoccupation with newts is puzzling.
As Bertie, David Gingerich recreates the role we have seen Hugh Laurie do. Laurie has appeared recently in the film version of Sense and Sensibility, ably directed by Emma Thompson, and, of course, he is my favorite diagnostician House. Playing only one more weekend through Sept. 20, Jeeves in Bloom offers moments of comedy. Tickets are available at www.artistsensemble.org or by calling (815) 394-5004. Do ask for information concerning the rest of the season.
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