On March 13, 2013, I saw “The Underpants” at Los Medanos College, in which the screenplay was adapted by Steve Martin.
The play takes place in Germany in a small apartment on the lower-scale side of town during the early 20th century. The story starts off with character “Theo” yelling at his wife “Louise” for an incident that occurred that morning during the King’s Parade. While watching the parade, Louise’s underpants accidentally fell to her knees, exposing her lady-parts to a crowd of spectators. Throughout the rest of the play, the characters embark on a series of risqué events in which suitors fight for Louise’s affection. Unaware of these suitors’ true intentions, Theo rents out a room of their apartment to these suitors to gain extra cash. Meanwhile, Louise must choose between living a mundane life with her husband, or exploring lustful opportunities with the characters that now live in her home.
One of my favorite characters was the character Frank Versati. He is French, romantic who has similar characteristics to the cartoon skunk character “Pepe-La-Piu.” From the moment Versati walks on stage, he has a clear purpose: to seduce Louise. His vocal energy was always very high, and I was impressed with how he was able to maintain his French accent throughout the entire time he was on stage. There were a few brilliant choices he made that impressed me the most. At one point, Versati is kneeling on his knees while reciting a flowery poem to Louise. Her skirt starts to become unpinned, and it was obvious this wasn’t a part of the scene. Instead of breaking character, Versati wraps his arm around her to adjust her, while also soothingly touching her arm. He was able to save the scene by doing this without causing the audience to be distracted from the true action of that moment. There is also a moment where Cohen was on stage and they are both arguing about their intentions of living in the apartment with Theo and Louise. I believe Versati could have done a better job at being angry at Cohen. In this moment, his sense of urgency to win Louise over wasn’t very high because he seemed more intent on defeating Cohen rather than convincing (both) Louise and Cohen that he is the best suitor. This tactic contradicts who Versati is because it was evident that he wanted Louise’s affection more than anything.
Another character I focused on was Theo. His energy was strong from the moment the play started, but he lacked fluctuation of his emotions. I didn’t enjoy his performance because it got to the point where I could predict everything he was going to do. His range of emotion varied from angry, to very angry. I think he should have approached this character by having a better understanding of who he is. Throughout the performance, I was under the impression that he was trying to imitate Steve Martin’s version, rather than explore who Theo is on his own creative ground. There were also times where Theo seemed to ‘act’ angry, but it was evident that he wasn’t angry at all. I knew the performance wasn’t up to par when I could realize that the actor was acting. Every time this character was on stage, my suspension from reality during the previous moment dissipated because I was brought back to the realization that this was a play.
I thought that the technical aspects of the show we’re done very well. The sets looked quite impressive and showed a great deal of detail. The lighting was always on point and the costumes and props had a sense of authenticity which made it that much more of a captivating experience. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this production and I would enjoy seeing it again, even with a different cast. I think Steve Martin’s adaptation of this screenplay has an appeal to anyone with a sense of humor and an open mind and it definitely was a pleasure watching this performance.