A description of “The Underpants”, adapted by THAT Steve Martin, which appears on the King’s Town Players website, suggests that the play is a “crazy satire…about scandal and celebrity“. This particular production, however, treats the script as a farce about little more than…well…underpants. The premise of the play is sound and intriguing. Louise, the neglected wife of a blowhard bureaucrat, finds herself the centre of attention after her underpants fall down around her ankles at a public event. Her egocentric husband fears scandal, while her neighbour and confidant senses opportunity. Sure enough, two suitors arrive hoping to rent a room in the house and win the affections of Louise. Unfortunately, this staging appears to place little emphasis on telling the story. The objective, instead, seems to be to get to the next gag.
Most good comedy is developed and delivered as a one-two blow – the first being the set up, and the next being the punch line. Martin’s genius, however, is his ability to turn that on its head, and use the overt punch line to set up the real gem buried within the witty zinger to follow. It’s a slight of hand, akin to the magic that Martin is so fond of. Director Clayton Garrett’s treatment of the script as farce places far greater focus on the slapstick over the subtlety, and a great deal of the playwrights’s biting commentary is lost. (more…)