Jody Kujawa is Francis Henshall and Jason Scorich is Stanley Stubbers in the Duluth Playhouse production of “One Man, Two Guvnors.”(Photo: Clint Austin / firstname.lastname@example.org)
In the middle of the first act of “One Man, Two Guvnors,” Jody Kujawa sternly warns a couple of audience members, “This is my show.”
Truer words have ne’er been spoken on the Playhouse stage.
The eye of a hurricane is the calm center of a massive swirling storm. But what if instead you discovered there was a tornado in the middle of a hurricane? Meteorologically that might be impossible, but it is an apt metaphor for the riotous comedy that opened the Playhouse’s season Thursday night with Kujawa in the role of a lifetime.
Kujawa plays Francis Henshall, an easily confused chap, who is employed by two men (aka “guvnors”), who also happen to be criminals: Rachel Crabbe (Cheryl Skafte), who is disguised as her dead twin brother, and Stanley Stubbers (Jason Skorich), her lover, who killed the brother and who is now in hiding, thereby setting the stage for comic confusion and complication galore. As gangsters go, these blokes are not exactly in the mold of the Sopranos, even if a recurring theme of the evening is trying to turn each of the males on stage into a lower-case one.
“One Man, Two Guvnors” is replete with a pair of twins, false names, mistaken identities, a really nice Heracles joke, a whole host of non sequiturs aimed directly at my funny bone and a passel of perpetual punch lines incessantly milked for all they are worth. At the center of all this chaos is Kujawa’s Francis, who keeps the audience apprised of his convoluted thought processes every step of the way, has a gem of a moment when he fights himself, and frequently enlists audience participation in both word and deed. It is these improvisational moments that play to Kujawa’s strong suit as a comedian and guarantee that no two performances of this show will ever be alike. If anything, I would suspect each performance will be funnier than the previous one.