Eastern Michigan University’s Theatre Department will be performing Richard Bean’s slapstick comedy, One Man, Two Govnors this weekend in the Quirk Theatre.
Nominated for seven Tony Awards, One Man, Two Govnors is the updated modern version of the 18th century Italian play, A Servant of Two Masters, written by Carlo Goldoni.
Bean’s version opened at the National Theatre in London in 2011 where it became a hit success. The play was brought to the United States by the National Theatre, where it premiered on Broadway in 2012.
James Corden, host of The Late, Late Show on CBS, starred in the original production as Francis and later as the same role on Broadway where he won a Tony Award for best actor in a play.
EMU director of One Man, Two Govnors, John Seibert, attended the performance of the play when he was in New York in 2012.
“He and the whole cast were just amazing in it,” he said. “I fell in love with the play and knew right then that I wanted to direct it someday,” said Seibert.
Set in the 1960's, the story is about a young man named Francis Henshall who, after being fired from his skittle band, begins working for two different bosses, or “guvnors,” to support his love of fish and chips and fun. In order to keep things afloat, Francis desperately tries to keep the two bosses from knowing about each other.
“It follows the same plot line of Servant of Two Masters so it’s also this interesting historical tribute to a centuries-old form of comedy called Commedia Dell Arte that featured some predictable character types that everyone would recognize, mixed with some real slapstick,” said Seibert.
“A university production is about the only way to see big, colorful large-cast productions like this,” he said. “Professional productions of plays like this are rare because they are so expensive to produce. We have the resources to do it right here at EMU and our talented students and staff always want to make sure that people see something very special.”
One of the special things about EMU’s production is that a live skiffle band will perform the original music by Grant Olding. Historically, a skiffle band was based in England in the 1950’s and early 60’s that played folk and rock. Seibert called it “Beatles-like.”
“We’ve done plenty of musicals here at Eastern, but this production was unique in that the band is truly a part of the play. We don’t hide them in an orchestra pit. Collectively, they’re a separate character in the piece and help us have a good time as an audience and even interact with the actors from time to time,” said Seibert.
The skiffle band is made up of EMU Theatre students and musicians who have been rehearsing before the actors in the play to feel like a real band before playing gigs.
Other than the live band, the play will also include digital animation, improvising, pratfalls, physical comedy and audience interaction.
“Students will not only get to cheer on their peers in this play, but I think they’ll also get to see a unique style of theatre that isn’t done very often any more. They’ll be witnessing a play that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for some important moments in theatre history,” he said. “If it doesn’t help us make sense of some of the insanity in this world, it at least helps us get through it.”
One Man, Two Govnors will be performed April 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 at 7 p.m. and April 10 & 17 at 2 p.m. in Quirk Theatre. Ticket prices are $15 regular admission, $12 for students and seniors and $9 for MAINSTAGE. Tickets are available in person at the Convocation Center, the Student Center, the Quirk Box Office, by phone at 734-487-2282 and online at www.emutix.com. Recommended for ages 13+.