Beckwith presenting Steve Martin farce

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A 1910 German farce adapted by Steve Martin, ‘The Underpants,” opening a two-weekend run at Beckwith Theatre Sept. 20, sends up bourgeois snobbery and conformity.

Set in Dusseldorf, the play co-directed by Rich Frantz was produced Off Broadway in New York City during April 2002.

Martin adapted “Die Hose” by playwright Carl Sternheim.

The play opens amid scandal: puritanical bureaucrat Theo Maske (James Huffman of Niles) is outraged with his wife of a year, Louise (Christina Huff) for accidentally allowing her bloomers to drop to the ground at a parade for the king (Tom Hoff of Niles).

As scandal blossoms into spectacle, characters in the ensemble reflect upon the timeless fascination with fame, our reliance on gender roles and our enslavement by sex. This play contains adult language and situations.

Huff grew up in Dowagiac and acted in Chicago after obtaining a theater degree from UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“I wasn’t in Drama Club,” she said, though she took Frantz’s class when he taught at Union High School and was the lead in a production of “Twelve Angry Jurors.”

This summer, Huff has been in shows at The Tin Shop in Buchanan.

Huffman, who previously appeared in “Playing Doctor,” took a theater class sophomore year at Brandywine, “did my first play and got hooked.”

It was Jeff Gunn (Cohen) and his parents, Karen and Paul Pugh, who were rescued from the Mill Pond with assistance from Rick O’Konski after their pontoon capsized.

Cohen “is one of the boarders enraptured by Louise’s underpants,” Gunn said.

Ryan Bassett portrays Versati, an opportunist. Bassett, a Dowagiac graduate majoring in communications at Lake Michigan College. also witnesses “the falling of the underpants and tries to persuade Louise into having an affair with him. He rents out a room and comes up with a plan so no one will find out.”

Keera Morton (Gertrude) Tuesday started her second year teaching at Eastside Connections School. She lives at Ring Lardner’s house.

This is her first play in five years, when she was in college at Central Michigan University and acted at the Broadway Theatre in downtown Mount Pleasant.

Gertrude “is the busy-body neighbor upstairs,” Morton said.

“Max (Sala, co-director) has a small part,” Frantz said. (Klinglehoff) “has no idea she dropped her underpants, he just wants to rent the room. But he also has a tic and says inappropriate things.”

“It sounded like it would be fun,” Frantz said, “and with Steve Martin, I thought it would be funny without being dirty, which it is. It’s like a screwball comedy from the ’30s.”

Stage manager Ordeana Sala underwrote the play.

Dwayne Whitmyer designed the set, with brother Lloyd Whitmyer providing tech support.