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July 27, 2007
V 35 Issue 30

 
 
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'Underpants' Might Excite You
'Underpants' Might Excite You
by Miryam Gordon Steve Martin's The Underpants
adapted from Carl Sternheim's Die Hosen
directed by Stephanie Farhood
SecondStory Repertory
Through August 4


Apparently men are so easily excited that a mere glimpse of underpants makes them slaves to their desire. Are you agreeing? Does even the outline of underwear under clothing cause one to think of nothing else than what the underwear is on top of? That's the premise of Steve Martin's adaptation of a German play, situated in the early 20th Century. In this case, the object of desire is a woman whose underpants fall down, in public, while throngs of people are watching for the King to pass by.

The glimpse of her underpants, and the subsequent gossip about it, cause a couple of men to seek out her house and offer to become renters in a room she and her husband had decided to rent out. Versati (Alex Garnett) is a fop who falls in love every day with someone new. He fancies himself a poet and apparently has money enough to indulge his momentary infatuations. He declares his love for Louise (Lindsay Evans) and his intention to have an affair with her while her husband, Theo (Evan Hernandez), is working. Cohen (Dan Posluns), a barber, also witnesses the incident and the fact that Versati saw it, becomes jealous and decides to defend Louise from Versati's advances. So, Cohen follows Versati, meets up with Theo, and also asks to rent the room.

Theo, the clueless, overbearing husband, offers the room to Cohen, and Louise offers the room to Versati, so there's a dilemma. Theo solves it by dividing the room in half and renting each a half a room. Louise finds herself with two men living with her, desiring her only because of the titillation she provided.

The cast in this SecondStory Repertory production has great comic timing. Even throw-away lines get enough attention to get their laughs. Those who saw ACT's recent production of the same play still found themselves having great fun hearing the jokes over again. Changes of scenes added to the amusement when lights were low, but mimed actions carried the play forward during musical interludes.

Steve Martin punches up the original play's display of the antisemitism present in German society and the budding pro-German attitudes that led toward World War II. He also picks apart the different ways women were treated by men and seen by themselves. Theo takes his wife for granted, and - no surprise - makes belittling comments about her as a "little housewife," while complaining that her beauty brings unwanted attention to him as a civil servant. Louise accepts his comments uncomplainingly because that's what she has been taught to think about herself.

Gertrude (Adrienne Maclain), the upstairs neighbor who lives vicariously through gossip, encourages Louise to have an affair. Some of Gertrude's comments cause Louise to rethink her situation and to take more chances in order to feel things she has suppressed. Louise has the opportunity to see herself as more important and to begin to assert herself in a more modern fashion.

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