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Friday, April 19, 2013

Comedy of Manners

Jeeves resolves all at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

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With Jeeves in Bloom, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre renders another compelling illustration of why P.G. Wodehouse's beloved characters Jeeves and Wooster continue to hold a distinctive appeal nearly a century after they first appeared on the printed page. Director Tami Workentin balances a rather intricately light comedic script on the shoulders of a talented cast. Margaret Raether's script tosses a few different conflicts at a handful of characters, allowing the irrepressibly precise valet Jeeves to find a way to successfully navigate those characters to a happy resolution.

Matt Daniels returns to the role of Jeeves in great form. He manifests a studied perfection in the role that allows him to make maximum impact with minimal presence onstage. This allows the more obvious end of the comedy to rest in the capable hands of the rest of the ensemble. Chase Stoeger brings pleasant sitcom-esque charm in the role of Jeeves' wealthy socialite employer. Also making a notable appearance here is Marcy Kearns as Wooster's Aunt Dahlia, who requests his company at her estate. Kearns is delightfully stern and droll as the plot gradually intensifies in complexity. Karen Estrada shows a markedly brilliant sense of comic delivery as the overly dramatic, floridly romantic Madeline Bassett. Norman Moses manages to make a couple of weakly comic characters shine around the edges of the performance with the heart of a man who knows what he's doing in this kind of a production.

The remarkable thing about Jeeves in Bloom is how little the title character is actually in the story. Daniels is clever enough in the role to allow the central action of the play to assert itself, but it would be more satisfying to see more of him.

Jeeves in Bloom runs through April 28, at the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.