Jeeves in Bloom
What ho, old chap! Pip pip! "Jeeves in Bloom" is playing at Taproot Theatre and this play, adapted by Margaret Raether from the beloved stories of P.G. Wodehouse, is a fluffy delightful romp through the British upper class of the early 1930’s in the company of the archetypal butler, Jeeves.
P.G. Wodehouse wrote a number of novels around the characters of Bertie Wooster, a young and empty-headed English aristocrat, and his butler, Jeeves, who gets his charge out of all kinds of trouble, while at the same time taking full advantage of Bertie’s naiveté.
In this production we enter the scene smack in the middle of the action. Bertie Wooster (Aaron Lamb) is under hot pursuit by the rest of the cast, all of them careening around what looks like a lovely walled garden at a country estate. Jeeves (Matt Shimkus) brings everything to a screeching halt and tenders his resignation to Bertie.
Bertie steps out of the scene, ruefully admitting to the audience that he has no idea how to tell a good story, takes the story back to the beginning where Bertie is arriving home after traveling with his favorite aunt, Dahlia Travers (Kim Morris).
He’s glad to be home but Aunt Dahlia recalls him to her country home immediately by way of a hilarious exchange of telegrams, where we first get to experience Bertie’s obtuseness and the droll and careful wit of Jeeves. Jeeves is the perfect butler, able to deliver the perfect panacea for too much indulgence the night before, suggest the perfect suit for any occasion, and is endowed with more intelligence, education and good sense than his social superiors.
Wodehouse excelled at creating ridiculous and unlikely scenarios to entrap his anti-hero Bertie; situations so entangled that only Jeeves had any hope of resolving them, and this is no exception. Suffice it to say that this situation involves many aspects. There is the ego of the French chef Anatole (Parker Matthews) and the financial troubles of Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia, who attempts to enlist Bertie to burgle her jewels, despite the fact that her husband, Thomas Travers (Stephen Grenley) patrols the grounds with a rifle.
There is also a love triangle among Thomas’s idiotic niece Madeline Basset (Marianna de Fazio) who flutters about the grounds reciting her own bad poetry, Bertie, whom she believes loves her, and Bertie’s old school chum, Augustus Fink-Nottle (Randy Scholz) who is hopelessly tongue-tied with women but passionately verbose regarding newts.
Aaron Lamb as Bertie stumbles his way from one difficult situation to another, with a marvelously vacuous grin on his face, as he attempts to make sense of things and succeeds only in making everything worse. Lamb’s characterization and comic timing are spot on, and his rapport with both Matt Shimkus as the impeccable, unflappable Jeeves and Randy Scholz as the stammering lovesick Augustus Fink-Nottle is marvelous. The trio really carries the show.
Bertie tries to help Augustus win the hand of Madeline, but only succeeds in his becoming engaged to her. Meanwhile, Anatole quits, leaving Thomas morose, and Dahlia has no hope at all of resolving her money troubles. Jeeves comes to the rescue and manages to put it all right somehow. His resignation from Bertie’s service turns out to be merely a step in his clever plan.
The show, directed by Karen Lund, has good pacing, and hearing the language of Wodehouse’s writing brought to life is great fun. The set, designed by Mark Lund, is so appealing Taproot needed ushers to stand guard over it during intermission to keep the audience from wandering into the garden.
Is this deep meaningful theater? Of course not. But spending an evening with what dramaturg Tina Polzin described as Wodehouse’s "zany comedy and delightfully absurd characters" is hardly a waste of time.
"Jeeves in Bloom" runs through Mar. 2 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-781-9707 or visit taproottheatre.org.