In a world that binge-watches TV shows and endless movie sequels, it’s odd that there are rarely plays that are part of a series in which the same characters have new adventures. That makes the charming Jeeves In Bloom a pleasant surprise for local audiences. North Carolina Stage Company produced Margaret Raether‘s Jeeves Intervenes a year ago. It was a smashing success, causing the theater company to add performances to the sold out run. Raether has penned another (with yet one more waiting in the wings) play based on the popular P.G. Wodehouse characters of the mid-20th century. It is not only inspired, but makes huge financial sense to keep a good thing going.
Michael MacCauley returns to the role of Jeeves, the butler to Scott Treadway’s Bertie Wooster. The pair act perfectly off of one another. Treadway plays the slightly dim, self-indulgent ,wealthy playboy with goofy aloofness, while MacCauley gives us a tightly buttoned and dry Jeeves. We can see that he can barely contain himself at all the banal antics his boss drags him into, then needs help getting out of.
Returning from last year’s cast, but in new roles, are Charlie Flynn-McIver and John Hall. McIver, as in last year’s show, is the third wheel on the Jeeves and Wooster adventure — but this time Gussy Fink-Nottle, a giddy man who is obsessed with newts and in love with a young woman named Madeline. Gussy has a favorite newt he has named Madeline. Trinity Smith-Keel plays Madeline (the woman, not the newt). She flirts with Wooster but wants the tongue-tied Gussy to sweep her off her feet. A convoluted ploy to win her affections backfires and she ends up engaged to Wooster instead. Gussy’s newt, Madeline, goes missing and, predictably, there is much confusion as to which Madeline is being referred to at any given moment.
John Hall plays Madeline’s uncle, a fussy and paranoid man, who thinks that robbers are lurking at every turn to steal his fortunes. Callan White is wonderfully witty and cutting as his wife, who also happens to be Wooster’s aunt. She is a strong-willed woman who publishes a feminist magazine but is having funding problems. She endeavors to steal her husband’s jewels to fund her endeavors rather than ask him for a loan. Naturally, she wants Wooster’s help. Add to the mix Strother Stingley‘s temperamental French chef, Anatole, and you have a recipe for a comically chaotic evening. Of course, Jeeves not only sees and knows all, but has to help the others unknot their tangled web of deceptions and convoluted schemes.
A lavish garden set fills the stage, thanks to the handiwork of Jack Lindsay and company technical director Catori Swann. Sydney DeBriel‘s costumes transport the audience to the early 1930s in the British countryside. This is a show that is a dash of “Downton Abbey” with classic Noel Coward comedy mixed in, making for a heady evening at the theater.
WHAT: Jeeves In Bloom
WHERE: North Carolina Stage Company, 15 Stage Lane, ncstage.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Feb. 19, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. $18-$40