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