Pit & Balcony Brings a Unique Combination of Farce, Burlesque, and Social Commentary to the Stage with Steve Martin\'s Adaptation of \'THE UNDERPANTS\'

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 740   By: Robert E Martin

26th January, 2012     0

What better way to push away the long nights and cold chill of winter than with the spark of wit and heated laughter of a bawdy sexual comedy?  Such is the case as Pit & Balcony Community Theatre kicks off their 2012 season with a unique adaptation of The Underpants, originally penned in 1910 by Carl Sternheim as a German farce called Die Hose, and polished with a litany of humor that is unmistakably the touch of comedian Steve Martin.
 
Martin's clever adaptation was originally produced Off-Broadway in 2002 and was lauded by The New York Times as an “ambitious amalgam of comic book and social commentary”, constructed out of sex jokes, slamming doors, and sophisticated repartee.
 
The story line centers on the Maskes, a bureaucrat and his wife, living in Düsseldorf in 1910. When Louise Maske's underpants fall to the ground at a parade for the King, her husband, Theo, becomes mortified and fears the worst: total destitution and social ruin. Instead, he ironically finds himself renting rooms in his home to men intending to seduce his wife. As scandal erupts into spectacle, the characters reflect upon our fascination with fame, our reliance upon gender roles, and our enslavement by sex.
 
Recently I spoke with Robin Devereaux, Director for The Underpants about what sets this script and production apart from traditional theatre fare.
 
“It's a combination of straight comedy, French farce and Burlesque, so there are different elements to juggle,” she reflects. “Usually with scripts copious notes are included concerning stage direction and costuming, but the cool thing with this script is that it's basically dialogue, which allowed me to be creative as a director.  We've added some sight gags in there that I don't believe other folks have done; and since this production is targeted towards adults, we're a little more evolved with the sexual innuendo.”
 
“This is an adult comedy and are not doing a student night this time around, because there are some dirty jokes in there,” cautions Robin. “But the basic premise is that of a young and bored housewife with an overbearing husband who's a penny pincher. She's not getting any attention and goes to a parade to see the “King'; and while she's there her underpants fall down and many people see her netherworld. So essentially, the play is about how one pair of underpants causes a lot of trouble.”
 
The cast for The Underpants consists of Mary Lee, Liz Williams, Paul Lutenske, Jay Glysz, Michael Curtis and Alex Alexandrou, who is also a professional stage and movie actor. “We've got one actor that is making his first stage appearance in this production and this is also my first show that I've directed at Pit & Balcony,” explains Robin, “so this has been a new experience for me. We were having trouble casting the role of the husband, so I was fortunate enough to pull in Alex. He's my semi-famous person in the show, which is kind of cool. I'll probably owe him cookies for the rest of my life!” she laughs.
 
“This play is a challenge because I think the toughest thing to translate well is comedy,” reflects Robin. “It's tough on the actors because it requires a lot of timing and control. So many of the jokes are delivered through innuendo, so to do it straight is a challenge. We'll be working on timing up to curtain time; because it's the most critical component.”
 
Steve Martin is such a funny guy and I think this is beautifully written. I'm a big fan of his humor because it's intelligent but not so intelligent that it doesn't translate well to any audience. As the Director, I'm adding my Devereauesque touch to it, because I'm kind of a funny girl myself,” she smiles. “As the characters develop you realize each of them is a kind of stereotype, only I don't want them to seem too stereotypical, so I'm playing that as a sub-text.”
 
“You have the nervous guy afraid of women, the staid husband, the smarmy womanizer - each of these characters are rich; but you don't want them so over the top and blatant that it's in the audience's face. You want the audience to be able to connect with each of these characters.”
 
“This is probably the funniest play I've ever helped produce,” concludes Robin. “I started laughing when I read page one and I think it feels like it will go fast for the audience because things keep happening and building.” 
 
“There truly is a joke on every page of this script.”
 
Performances run January 27th, 28th, and 29th and February 3rd, 4th, and 5th.  Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8pm and Sunday matinees are at 3pm.  Tickets are $18 and seating is limited.  Call (989)754-6587, or visit www.pitandbalconytheatre.com to purchase tickets.  Tickets may also be purchased at the box office (805 N. Hamilton St., Saginaw) between 8:30am and 5pm Monday through Friday.  Due to its mature content, this production is recommended for adult audiences only.

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