By Mary Boyle
What does the name "Jeeves" make you think of? For many, the name may conjure the image of a stuffy English butler, though they may not know why. The origin of the image actually comes from a beloved character in a series of short stories and novels by the English writer P. G. Wodehouse written between 1915 and 1975. In the stories, Jeeves is the unflappable, intelligent and highly capable valet to a wealthy and rather aimless young English gentleman, Bertie Wooster. Like a funnier Sherlock and Holmes, Bertie manages to get himself into a string of scrapes and mishaps, but his trustworthy and brilliant companion, Jeeves, always manages to save the day.
Playwright Margaret Raether discovered and fell in love with the Jeeves stories in college and went on to create a trilogy of plays based on Wodehouse's famous character: Jeeves Intervenes, Jeeves In Bloom, and Jeeves Takes A Bow. Between 2010 and 2015, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre produced each play with Milwaukee's own Matt Daniels playing the role of Jeeves. Fortunately, Raether decided to write another play about Jeeves, MCT decided to produce it, and Daniels decided to return to the stage as the quintessential valet in JEEVES AT SEA.
In this edition, the year is 1929 and we find Bertie Wooster (Chris Klopatek) and Jeeves (Matt Daniels) aboard the yacht of the lovely Lady Stella Vanderley (Kathryn Hausman), who is accompanied by her chaperone, Miss Minerva Pilbeam (Diane Lane). Trouble arrives with Bertie's friend, Sir Percival Everard Crumpworth, a. k. a. "Crumpet," who returns to the ship after an evening of over-imbibing, raving that he may or may not have committed murder. Then, things go from bad to worse when the local paper's headline reads that the Prince was attacked the night before and Count Otto von Dietrichstein (Michael Stebbins), the Prince's personal guard, boards the ship insisting on speaking with Crumpet!
While Matt Daniels returns to the MCT stage to play Jeeves for the fourth time, Chris Klopatek will be alongside him as Bertie Wooster for the third time, and this isn't the only play they've worked as a duo: just last season, the two were cast as the King and the Duke in the First Stage production of Big River. Absolutely in their element, it isn't difficult to see why they were asked to reprise their roles in this production, but their castmates are equally well-suited to their roles. I was particularly impressed with relative newcomer, Josh Krause, who was in nearly every production at American Players Theatre this past season and played the role of Crumpet quite convincingly.
Directed by Producing Artistic Director, C. Michael Wright, who is celebrating his final season with MCT, Jeeves At Sea is as sophisticated as a farce can get. From the brilliant art deco set by Stepen Hudson-Mairet to the masterful costumes by Kim Instenes, and an incredibly talented, well-chosen cast of local actors, this fast-paced and funny production is an absolutely delightful voyage from start to finish.
JEEVES AT SEA runs through December 22nd at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, located at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Tickets may be purchased in person at the box office, online at www.MilwaukeeChamberTheatre.com, or by calling (414) 291-7800
In honor of the holiday season, MCT is hosting a donation drive during the run of JEEVES AT SEA to benefit Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI). Founded and run by veterans, MHVI's mission is to help homeless and at-risk veterans reach and maintain their highest levels of independence. Since 2008, they have served more than 3,500 veterans and their families in southeastern Wisconsin. Learn more about Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative at www.wisconsinvets.org.
If you are interested in donating to MHVI, here is a list of gift cards that MHVI distributes most often:
Donations can be dropped off in the Studio Theatre lobby during any
JEEVES AT SEA performance.
About Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Founded in 1975, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) produces intimate and accessible theatrical works that engage and challenge the audience, while employing and nurturing principally local theatre artists.