Hartford Stage Fills Final 2018-19 Slot With British Farce

Hartford Stage has filled in the sole “to be announced” slot on its 2018-19 schedule, and it’s a funny choice. A very, very, funny choice. What you might call an international laugh riot.

The show is “Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense” by David and Robert Goodale. It ran in London’s West End for two years and has toured the U.K., Australia, China and India.

“Perfect Nonsense” is the first authorized nonmusical stage play based on P. G. Wodehouse’s famous characters Bertie Wooster (the hapless upper class twit) and Jeeves (his butler). The play is specifically based on the 1938 novel “The Code of the Woosters,” which concerns a lost notebook and an antique “cow creamer” (small milk pitcher). “Perfect Nonsense” is performed by just three actors. It has a framing concept in which Bertie is attempting to relate his adventures in the form of a one-man show.

The Hartford Stage production, which will happen in the spring of 2019, will be new, but the theater is enlisting the show’s original director, Sean Foley, to stage this U.S. premiere. The show’s cast and designers have not been chosen yet.

“The script is terrific, but so much of its success is from what Sean does with it,” says Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson.

Foley was part of the comedy team The Right Size, whose comedy “The Play What I Wrote” played on Broadway in 2003.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn created a musical based on the Wooster and Jeeves characters of “By Jeeves” which had its U.S. premiere at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theatre in Chester in 1996. That show was also largely based on “The Code of the Woosters.”

A self-professed “huge Wodehouse fan” who has read more than 40 of the British author’s popular comic novels, Williamson says the books can be “very hard to adapt. I’ve never before seen a production that made me laugh as much as this one does. It’s total farce, and yet completely in the spirit of the books.”

Williamson saw “Perfect Nonsense” in London several years ago, and says it became “one of my babies, a project I’ve been trying to make happen for some time.” She had some meetings concerning the “Perfect Nonsense” at Hartford Stage production just last month when she was in London working as a dramaturg on Matthew Lopez’s new drama “The Inheritance” at the Young Vic theater.

“Sean is a busy, in-demand director,” Williamson says. “Luckily, we found a slot in our season that fit his schedule.”

Hartford Stage announced the other five shows in its 2018-19 season last month: the premiere of Bess Wohl’s childhood drama “Make Believe,” directed by Jackson Gay; Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” directed by Williamson; the premiere of Samuel Baum’s “The Engagement Party,” directed by Darko Tresnjak; Dominique Morriseau’s sociopolitical drama “Detroit ‘67”; and the premiere of a new musical based on the film “The Flamingo Kid” by Robert L. Freedman (book and lyrics) and Scott Frankel (music), directed by Tresnjak.

The 2018-19 Hartford Stage season is the final one to be overseen by Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak, who will be leaving that post in June of 2019. Tresnjak has been artistic director since 2011.

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