Entertainment » Theatre

Are You Being Served?

by Christopher Soden
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Mar 16, 2008
Jackie L. Kemp as Mr. Mash and Jon Morehouse as Mr. Humphries in "Are You Being Served?"
Jackie L. Kemp as Mr. Mash and Jon Morehouse as Mr. Humphries in "Are You Being Served?"  

Are you being amused?

I'm sure most of you have heard the traditional wisdom that comedy is more difficult to carry off than drama and such would seem to be the case with Garland Civic Theatre's current production of Are You Being Served? Taken from the tremendously popular BBC series of the same name and written by its original creators Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, this stage version is fun and clever enough, but there's no breathing room, no modulation, and (even for adults) a little bit of raunch goes a long way.

In the great tradition of vaudeville the bawdy sight gags and prurient puns come fast and steady but pretty soon you start to tire of the constant sharp jab to the ribs. Sometimes the dividing line between a substantial narrative from which humor can emerge and a skeleton upon which you can hang as many gags as possible is very fine indeed.

You have to admire the physical comedy when you see the cast dancing in lederhosen or under attack from their evening seafood repast.

Perhaps applying the structural demands of a weekly situation comedy to a full-length play was part of the problem. All the traditional components of television sketch comedy are here. The outlandish costumes, the slapstick, the crazy wigs, rim-shot and blue humor. Levity is a tonic to the famished spirit and we all long for it, but, as with most artistic skills it can be much less easier than it looks. It may just be too difficult for any cast to bring off this wealth of material and have it feel spontaneous.

"Are You Being Served?" is set in a British department store and the coastal resort where the same employees take a holiday together. The characters range from the jovial to the arrogant, from the prim to the saucy. The acting is quite capable, all the performers are equal to the challenge and contribute to the goofiness and eccentric shtick at the core of this show. You have to admire the physical comedy when you see the whole cast dancing in lederhosen or under attack from their evening seafood repast.

The production is a classic example of ensemble acting, the cast operates well together, hitting their marks, seizing their cues and sparking the energy. Susan McMath Platt as Mrs. Slocombe and Jon Morehouse as Mr. Humphries were especially delightful. Ms. Platt brings a rich ?clat to her moments whether she is tipsy or flirtatious. Humphries is not the most enlightened depiction of a gay man you'll ever see, but, Mr. Morehouse has a lightness and nonchalance that is fey genius.

The set design (thanks to Wade Giampa) is true to the details of popular sitcom down to the elevators and sales counters. The second act milieu at the resort is well conceived and versatile, with its cabanas and outhouse straight out of "Lil Abner." Marisa Doerfler's costume design is inventive and giddy, whether she is supplying Alpine Dancing Costumes, pajamas, or knickers in homage to the Union Jack.

Garland Civic Theatre presents: Are you being served? by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft. Directed by Linda Ewing. Playing Thursdays through Sunday, March 6-29th. Granville Arts Center. 300 North Fifth Street in downtown Garland. Tickets which are $16 to $20 with discounts for youth, seniors, and groups can be ordered by calling 972-205-2790. Susan McMath Platt as Mrs. Slocombe, Stefanie Darrah as Miss Brahms, Nick Haley as Mr. Lucas, Jon Morehouse as Mr. Humphries, Reg Platt as Mr. Grainger, Ben Westfried as Captain Peacock, and Jim Welch as Mr. Rumbold. Others in the cast, Elaine Erback, Jackie L. Kemp, Paul MacKenzie, and Lindsey Petropoulos, will play multiple roles.

Christopher Soden received his MFA in Poetry from Vermont College in 2005. He is a teacher, lecturer, actor, performer and playwright. In addition he writes film, theatre and literary critique. In his spare time he likes to read, cook, dine, do crossword puzzles, chill and nap.


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