Manservant and manchild

Fourteen years ago, First Folio Theatre presented Jeeves Intervenes, the first in what would prove to be a reliably crowd-pleasing series of adaptations by Margaret Raether of P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves and Bertie” stories. (Jeeves Saves the Daywas the last show the company presented before the COVID-19 shutdown.) So it makes sense that they’d kick off their final season at Mayslake Peabody Estate with a return to the fizzy, silly, slapstick world of perpetual manchild Bertie Wooster and his adroit valet, Jeeves, who does indeed intervene and save the day on a regular basis.

Jeeves Intervenes Through 12/4: Wed 8 PM, Thu 3 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; no show Thu 11/24; open captions Fri 11/18 and Sat 11/26 4 PM; First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 31st, Oak Brook, 630-986-8067, firstfolio.org, $49-Wed-Thu (seniors $44), $59 Fri-Sun (seniors $54)

Directed by Michael Goldberg, this iteration still offers plenty of goofy charm, even if Christian Gray’s Bertie is a bit more gray around the temples. (Then again, perpetual manchildren get older, never wiser.) Christopher John Grella’s Jeeves is a bit less choleric than Jim McCance, who played the role for the previous versions, but his slightly distanced persona suggests at times that he’s an alien or guardian angel sent to save Bertie from himself. Or in this story, from Bertie’s fearsome Aunt Agatha (Jill Shellabarger), who’s intent on marrying her feckless nephew off to budding intellectual Gertrude (Lydia Berger Gray). Bertie’s even-more-feckless friend, Eustace (Nick Sandys in fine pratfall form), has his own problems with his military uncle, Sir Rupert (Ron Keaton).

The screwball plot takes a while to find its pace, but it’s soon humming along like a 1920s Rolls-Royce Phantom. The actors know exactly when to underplay and when to go for broke, and Angela Weber Miller’s elegant set provides a delightful backdrop. I’ll miss this First Folio tradition. If you’ve never had the pleasure, it might be a good time to check it out before they turn the lights off for good.


Wednesday, November 30, 2022 at the Museum of Contemporary Art

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