Theater review: ‘Jeeves at Sea’ by N.C. Stage Company

HILARITY ON THE HIGH SEAS: Jeeves and Bertie return for antics and intrigue on the Riviera in 'Jeeves at Sea.' The play stars, from left, Charlie Flynn-McIver, Michael MacCauley and Scott Treadway. Photo courtesy of N.C. Stage Company

Jeeves, the competent valet, and his blundering employer, Bertie, are back for more British farce among the bumbling aristocracy. N.C. Stage Company builds on its past successful productions of the P.G. Wodehouse stories, which are adapted to the stage by Margaret Raether. Jeeves at Sea runs through Sunday, Feb. 17.

This time, on the Vanderley yacht anchored off the coast of Monte Carlo, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster (played by Scott Treadway) and friends party while enjoying the good life. Bertie has fallen for the lovely Lady Stella Vanderley (Carin Metzger), whose temperament is a mixture of fun-loving and fickle. Bertie just can’t seem to get her to accept his marriage proposal.

Drunken antics land one of Bertie’s pals — Sir Percival Everard Crumpworth (Charlie Flynn-McIver), nicknamed “Crumpet” — in trouble. While staggering around Monte Carlo late one night, a soused Crumpet throws a punch and, perhaps, assaults a prince. When this incident makes the headlines in the local newspaper, Bertie and Jeeves (Michael MacCauley) help Crumpet assume a new identity as his own twin, complete with a different personality and none-too-subtle eyepatch to hide a black eye.

Bertie doesn’t allow his pal’s problems to distract him from wooing Lady Stella. Meanwhile, her uptight traveling companion, Miss Minerva Pilbeam (Paula O’Brien), strongly disapproves of Bertie, who is, after all, only a minor aristocrat.

Soon, Bertie is involved in his own intrigue. Lady Stella confides to her companion that Bertie actually writes romance novels under the pen name Rosie M. Banks. Suddenly, Bertie must assume the author’s identity and act as if he has written several books. He doesn’t even like books.

Banks’ stories involve lovers from different social classes who choose to defy the strictures of the British class system. Miss Pilbeam is a devotee of Banks’ novels. She makes an impassioned defense of Banks’ works, but can she overcome her real-life snobbery?

Jeeves, ever the sage to the hapless elite, delivers his best advice to Bertie, who often defers to his manservant’s better judgment. Treadway’s Bertie is privileged and endearing, especially because he acknowledges that Jeeves remains the best guide on how to resolve a crisis.

MacCauley re-creates the Jeeves that fans of the character love. He is droll in his rejoinders, yet gentle as he tries to steer Bertie away from disaster after disaster. It is a joy to watch two skilled actors bring vitality to these beloved roles.

The set design stands out as an excellent re-creation of a luxury yacht’s wooden upper deck. The costume design deserves particular note, especially the women’s dresses that are reminiscent of flappers of the ’20s. Worth mentioning, too, is the well-choreographed duel. Bertie has angered Miss Pilbeam’s long-lost love, the Prussian Count Otto Von Dietrichstein (Ryan Mitchell), and has to defend himself. Unfortunately, Bertie says, sarcasm, not the sword, has always been his best weapon.

Comedic timing is key to the pacing of the Jeeves and Wooster brand. MacCauley and Treadway deliver, as does the supporting cast. Under the skillful direction of Angie Flynn-McIver, the play crackles with the well-bred silliness that distinguishes the worldview of the idle rich.

WHAT: Jeeves at Sea
WHERE: N.C. Stage Company, 15 Stage Lane, ncstage.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Feb. 17. Wednesdays- Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Additional matinees on Saturdays, Feb. 9 and 16, at 2 p.m. $10-$46

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About Patricia Furnish
Patricia Furnish is a North Carolina native who loves history, Spanish, and the visual arts. She is also a documentary filmmaker. Follow me @drpatriqua

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