EWU Theatre production charms ‘The Underpants’ off of audience
November 14, 2012
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Fall comedy features love, laughter and the search for fit undergarments
In a YouTube video belonging to the theater department, a promise of “gut-busting, laugh-out-loud” comedy was made by assistant professor Sara Goff to those who would attend “The Underpants.”
True to her word, the play received raucous laughter from a packed house of students, staff, faculty and family members of the actors.
The scene is set in a small apartment in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1910. The play opens in the kitchen of Theo and Louise Maske. The couple has just arrived home from the king’s parade and Theo starts shouting at Louise.
Louise tried to get a better look at the king and much to Theo’s dismay, her underpants fell down. Theo’s rage quickly turns into paranoia.
Who saw? What will people say? What about his job?
Of course, the entizre incident is blamed on sweet, simple Louise. If only she was not wandering around with her head in the clouds, the whole situation could have been avoided.
Exasperated and exhausted from chastising Louise, Theo steps out, leaving Louise alone. Then there is a knock at the door. An eccentric man dressed in a suit with frilled cuffs, calling himself Versati, comes sweeping in the room asking about renting their spare room.
From there, the plot thickens as Louise realizes she has become a sort of celebrity and gentlemen begin calling upon her.
As the play progressed, it became clear to the audience that this was a farce comedy.
The lines are often over-dramatic, complete with expressions and gestures from the actors.
The humor was primarily composed of sexual innuendos and crude humor.
A few jokes were made in reference to the time period.
For example, when hypochondriac Cohen appears the German characters react to his Jewish-sounding name in a hostile manner.
On the surface, the play is a simple, quick comedy. Digging deeper reveals a display of marriage troubles, the meaning of life, what it means to love and finding a voice.
The audience was invited to look at this picture of what it meant to be a woman and a man during the early 1900s in Germany. They got to see a comedic portrayal of the challenges and struggles that love and lust bring to peoples’ lives, all thanks to the actors not just portraying their characters, but becoming them.
The actors had an impressive set to work with. It was as if somebody had taken a photograph of a small Dusseldorf apartment from the 1900s and the actors stepped into the frame. Wooden furniture with iron fixtures, a small iron stove, an old-fashioned wash table and a large dish cupboard complete with old dishes created an old world theme.
The costumes, which consisted of floor-length skirts complete with bustles, high-necked blouses and thick-heeled boots for the women and simple neutral-toned slacks and button-down shirts with suspenders for the men, created the sense that the audience was, again, looking at a photograph of people from the early 1900s.
Ross McCrorie, who played Cohen, said he was relieved to have some laughter.
“It felt great. I mean, it’s such a relief to finally have people laughing at this show that we’ve worked on for months.”
McCrorie said his biggest challenge was pausing for laughter and reading the audience.
“There’s some things that you’ve rehearsed so much that you’re not even sure they’re funny anymore,” said McCrorie.
David Logghe, who made his debut on the EWU stage as Theo Maske, said having opening night out of the way felt “fantastic.”
“Last night when we did preview, we got to hear laughs for the first time in a while,” said Logghe. “When you do a farce like this, sometimes you kind of forget the rhythm. You forget where the laughs are going to be.
“When the audience comes in, that’s when the show really comes together. It’s a huge give and take with audience and the crew. Tonight was just perfect. I felt like we were all coming together,” said Logghe.
Logghe said there are always challenges on opening night.
“For me, it’s always, ‘I’m nervous. I’m nervous. I’m nervous.’ As soon as I take my first step on stage, I’m fine,” said Logghe.
Goff, the director of the production, said she was proud of her cast.
“I think they did great, and it’s so wonderful to finally have an audience,” said Goff. “It’s like the final piece of the puzzle. What’s a comedy without the laughter?
“Well, what’s any show without the audience? Especially a comedy, you work so hard and you’re never sure if, ‘is it funny?’ So, to have all the laughter, the energy in the house was really exciting. I’m very proud of their performances, I thought they were great,” said Goff.
Martin Sanks, who played the part of the king, said he was nervous.
“Oh my god, the nerves,” said Sanks. “The nerves are now in my system. It feels amazing to finally have a huge audience to laugh at our jokes now, because that’s the biggest component to comedy is having our audience there. It’s so much fun and I want to do it again and again and again.”