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Underpants: More than Just an Undergarment

By ameyers

Section: Arts

March 18, 2005

The Brandeis Ensemble Theaters performance of The Underpants last weekend was the first time that the show has been performed in the New England area. The comedy was written by Carl Sternheim and adapted by Steve Martin. The whole series of events starts when several men getting a glimpse of a woman after her underpants miraculously fall down, and are enraptured by her enough to rent a room in the house that her husband is trying to lease out. What follows is a series of chaotic and hilarious events.

The Underpants is set in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1910 and tells the story of a seemingly ordinary married couple. Theo Maske, played by David Pepose 08, is an uptight, egotistic and precise government clerk, while his wife, Louise, played by Amanda Brown 08, is a housewife in need of romance and an end to the monotony of life. Both of their worlds become turned upside down after Louises underpants inexplicably fall down in a public parade. Both do an effective job in playing their characters, although the characters in The Underpants are generally two dimensional.

Theo is predictable in attitude while the character of Louise remains confused in about her identity throughout the performance. Pepose, concerning his role as the rude Theo, said, I loved being Theo because its me without walls or filters. I got to be as bad as I wanted to be. At the same time, Brown manages the task well in playing a woman confused during a mid-life crisis. Her role is at the center of The Underpants, and she is one of the few characters who for the most part is meant to be serious.

The supporting characters in The Underpants provide the majority of the comedy. A large part of the laughter heard during the performance comes from Zach Reff 05 as Frank Versati, Louises short-lived love interest and a Rico Suave type character. Reffs poetry and romantic character makes Louise flutter with affection as he reels off comments with sexual references. One particular funny moment was when Reff declares to Louise, You are the flint, I am the fire, and he [Theo] is the wet piece of wood. Reff adds presence to the stage when he is present, but he is unfortunately not in the play near its conclusion. Another supporting character is Gertrude Deuter, played by Joanie Axelbaum 07. Axelbaum portrays her character well, the gossipy, swooning romantic that lives above the Maske residence. Benjamin Cohen, played by Michael Glicksman 08, is also plays a significant role as Franks competition to Louise. Cohen is a barber immediately struck by affection for Louise after the underpants episode. Cohen has amusing quips throughout the play. He tries to deny that he is Jewish by declaring to Theo that his last name is spelled with a K, while later accidentally using the word kosher but claiming it was with a c. When arguing about their different choice of lifestyles, Versatti refers to Theos lifestyle as barbaric, which prompts Cohen to scream, How dare you insult barbers! These types of wisecracks and wit are the bread and butter of The Underpants.

Finally, the last two characters, Klinglehoff, an eccentric old man that wishes to rent out the room, played by Josh Mervis 08, and the King of Germany, played by Deniz Cordell 07, both have brief roles near the end of the play but make the most of them. They serve as zany supplements to the already humorous cast.

Overall, the characters, while somewhat two dimensional, play their roles effectively in making an amusing play. In the same way that Steve Martin was good at playing goofy and humorous characters, his adaptation of The Underpants is triumphant at creating them.

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