THE UNDERPANTS adapted by Steve Martin from Carl Sternheim's play Die Hose, directed by Daryl Cloran, with Evan Buliung, Holly Lewis, Kate Lynch, Brian Marler, Christopher Morris, Dylan Trowbridge and William Webster. Presented by Theatrefront at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley). Runs to December 20, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday tba and Saturday 2 pm. $15-$30, limited Monday pwyc. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN
steve martin's a brilliant comic actor and a good writer (Shopgirl, Roxanne, Picasso At The Lapin Agile). But watching his adaptation of Carl Sternheim 's 1911 German farce The Underpants , you wonder, Why? Why adapt this thing at all? Set in the house of the middle-class Maskes, Theo ( Brian Marler ) and Louise ( Holly Lewis ), the 90-minute piece shows what happens after Louise has, to Theo's embarrassment, dropped her underwear while watching the king pass by in a parade.
Drawn by the sight of Louise's drawers, various men pop in to rent the Maskes' spare room, including a poet ( Evan Buliung ) and a barber ( Dylan Trowbridge ).
Nosy neighbour Gertrude ( Kate Lynch ) tries to live vicariously through the suddenly desirable woman.
There's lots of innuendo and many puns (which get tiresome), and we easily comprehend the hypocrisy of the poet who's all talk and no action and the men who would rather fight over a woman than bed her.
Daryl Cloran 's production is as peppy and colourful as a wind-up music box. He's blessed with a mostly fine cast. Marler's might-is-right husband needs more shading, but Lynch can sell any line, even difficult ones where lots of hijinks are required. And Buliung is a discovery as the pompous, self-satisfied fop who stirs the heart of Louise, a figure who in Lewis's hands grows from doll-like to knowing woman in a few swift scenes.
There's trouble in the conception of the barber, a character who tries to hide his Jewishness in pre-world war two Germany. Satire here slips uncomfortably into something sinister, and Cloran and Trowbridge don't know how to present the character, who gets few laughs.
In all, a comic curio, worth checking out for the acting and the occasional chuckle.