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St. Vincent Summer Theatre's 'Jeeves in Bloom' is all-ages comedy

St. Vincent Summer Theatre
St. Vincent Summer Theatre is in rehearsals for the heart-warming comedy, Jeeves in Bloom, the third show of the theatre’s 46th summer season. Playing major roles are, from left, Luke Halferty who plays Augustus Fink-Nottle, Daina Michelle Griffith who plays Madeline Basset, Joy Pankin who plays Dahlia Travers, David Cabot who plays Anatole and Thomas Travers, Kevin Daniel O’Leary who plays Bertie Wooster and Stuart Pankin who plays Jeeves.

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‘Jeeves in Bloom'

When: 8:10 p.m. July 10-12, 15-19, 22-26; 2:10 p.m. July 16 and 20

Admission: $10 for Thursday preview performance; $19, $17 for senior citizens on weeknights; $22 for Friday and Saturday evenings; $16 for matinees; $10 for students

Where: St. Vincent Summer Theatre, near Latrobe

Details: 724-537-8900 or www.svst.org

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Cynthia Bombach Helzel
Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

A plan to help a friend find true love backfires with comical results in “Jeeves in Bloom,” on stage this month at St. Vincent Summer Theatre near Latrobe.

The play is adapted from the popular “Jeeves and Wooster” stories of British author P.G. Wodehouse. Jeeves is the valet of Bertie Wooster, a carefree man-about-town in 1930s London. Although Bertie is a kind-hearted soul who would help anyone, he frequently ends up in predicaments that only the brilliantly clever Jeeves can solve.

In “Jeeves in Bloom,” Bertie and Jeeves travel to a country house belonging to Bertie's aunt and uncle. While there, Bertie plans to help his socially clumsy friend Gussie Fink-Nottle woo Madeline Bassett, an innocent, but hopelessly romantic, young lady. Bertie's efforts result in an embarrassing mix-up with Madeline, not to mention his involvement in a burglary and attacks by a crazed French chef. As always, Jeeves comes to his rescue with a plan to save the day.

The play, one of only a few based on the Jeeves and Wooster stories, hit a soft spot in the heart of director Colleen Reilly.

“P.G. Wodehouse was a wonderful, wonderful writer,” she says. “The language is so much fun. I've loved his stories since I was a little kid, when my father read them to me.”

With its sweet humor and witty writing, the play is suitable for all ages. “It's a wonderfully innocent, but also intelligent, type of humor,” Reilly says. “The language is dazzling.”

The characters themselves are likeable people with endearing qualities.

“Bertie Wooster is a decent, good-hearted soul,” Reilly says, “and Jeeves is very caring. He takes good care of Bertie. And Bertie is always willing to help out a friend.”

Much of the comedy ensues when Bertie's efforts to help others put him in sticky situations that require his valet's assistance to fix.

The always-reliable Jeeves is played by Stuart Pankin, a veteran of the St. Vincent stage. “Jeeves comes up with these schemes to solve the problems,” Pankin says. “He's tricky and he's cunning and he's subtle, and he gets the job done.”

While Jeeves maintains a cool, professional demeanor, his employer is just the opposite. “Bertie is flighty. He doesn't care about the intellectual side of life,” Pankin says. His pal Gussie, meanwhile, is mainly obsessed with the breeding habits of newts.

Gussie's love interest, Madeline Bassett, is played by Daina Michelle Griffith. “Madeline is very feminine; she's dainty and fanciful and innocent,” Griffith says. “She's very romantic; she believes in true love. If anyone shows her affection, she immediately believes he's her true love.”

Madeline's propensity to fall in love at the drop of a hat adds to the comical problems for everyone involved. “It's a very funny, frothy comedy,” Pankin says.

Griffith says that after watching the play, audiences will feel they have eavesdropped on the lives of a very likeable group of people.

“You love these characters for their quirks and for their honesty,” she says. “They're so funny and sweet. You leave thinking, ‘I'm glad I just saw that.'”

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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