Sarasota hosts Steve Martin's 'Underpants'

mclear@bradenton.comJune 20, 2013 

Gil Brady and Jennifer Joan Thompson star in "The Underpants." Maria Lyle/publicity photo

MARIA LYLE OF MARIA LYLE PHOTOGR

When people hear that a play is written by Steve Martin, they're usually expecting something silly.

When they hear that the play that Martin wrote is called "The Underpants," they're even more likely to anticipate abject wackiness from the comedian who used to be known as a wild and crazy guy.

But Bruce Jordan, who's directing the upcoming production of Martin's play for Florida Studio Theatre, says there's more substance to "The Underpants" than some might expect.

"It's not as crazily funny as some of his work," Jordan said. "No one has an arrow through his head. It's personality-driven situational comedy. What it has to do with is everyone's 15 minutes of fame, and what we do when it's over."

In fact, Martin adapted "The Underpants" from an obscure German play from 1910.

"It's not a good play," Jordan said.

The two plays share the same plot, but the original play is much more serious.

The story has to do with a woman who's watching the king pass by in a parade. She rises up onto her toes to get a better look, and her underpants fall to the ground. Two men who witness the incident become obsessed with her, to the point where they end up living in the house with the woman and her husband.

In both plays, the husband is a decidedly unpleasant man who blames the wife for the situation. In the Steve Martin adaptation, they argue; in the original, he beats her with a stick.

"It's not my fault," the wife says.

"It is always the woman's fault," the man says.

"There's definitely a feminist undercurrent," Jordan said.

But, he said, "The Underpants" isn't a polemic, or a play that's meant to deliver a message or a moral. It's a very funny farce that happens to have a bit of substance to it.

FST audiences know Jordan from his work last year on "The Perfect Wedding," and for "Shear Madness," which he has directed twice.

Jordan said he has a "dream cast" for this show, including Daryl Embry, whom Jordan directed in "The Perfect Wedding," and Gil Brady, who appeared in FST's cabaret production of "Reel Music."

Details: Various times June 26-July 28, Keating Theatre at Florida Studio Theater, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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