STP Preview: ‘Leave it to Jeeves’

Senior theater major David Widder-Varhegyi presents his senior theatre project 8 p.m. April 15 in Alford Auditorium.

“Leave it to Jeeves: An Evening With Me – Bertie Wooster, and My Man, Jeeves” is based on some short stories by the comedic British author, P. G. Wodehouse. Widder-Varhegyi said this is the first time this particular piece will ever be produced.

After rejecting an earlier idea for his STP, Widder-Varhegyi found Wodehouse’s short stories on a public domain site. He said he was intrigued by the stories – especially the ones featuring Jeeves, a witty butler.

“He’s the best parts of Alfred from Batman, Jock from Mortdecai, and Sherlock and Watson,” Widder-Varhegyi said. “It’s that typical British combination of the wealthy bird who’s a little dull on the brains and the serving class person who saves the day repeatedly.”

Jeeves (played by junior theatre major Caleb Curby) is the butler to Widder-Varhegyi’s character, Bertie Wooster. Together, Wooster and Jeeves have many adventures. Widder-Varhegyi used the first story in the series he had found. In this series, a friend of Wooster’s named Bruce Corcoran, Corky, (played by senior theatre major Drew Poplin), has an awkward encounter with his uncle, Alexander Worple (also played by Curby). It’s such an awkward situation that everyone is dumbstruck. No one knows what to do, so Jeeves steps in to save the day.

Widder-Varhegyi is both actor and producer in this play,  but his first role was the adapter.

“It’s been really cool to see how much of the material David’s preserved,” Curby said.

Widder-Varhegyi said he took an entirely first-person narrative and turned it into a three-person show with eight characters. Widder-Varhegyi had Curby’s character, Jeeves, take on the roles of the surplus characters not played by the other two actors. He said this presents a serious challenge for the actors involved, especially Curby, since he’s playing Jeeves.

“There are a lot of layers within each character,” Widder-Varhegyi said.

Jeeves plays six characters, all of whom are totally different. They include minor characters like a taxi driver, as well as more central figures like Corky’s uncle. Some are more humorous displays than others, like when Jeeves plays Corky’s fiance, Miriam.

Widder-Varhegyi said he wrote the play in this way because he wanted to work with only a few actors.

“This project has less to do with the content of the piece and more to do with the context in which it was created,” Widder-Varhegyi said. “My hope for the project was to bring together five people: three actors, a stage manager and a director.”

Since the cast and crew was so small, Widder-Varhegyi said he wanted everyone to be intimately involved with the show.

“I wanted the project to be something where everybody was working hard and everyone was doing something that was unique to them in an enjoyable fashion,”Widder-Varhegyi said.

So there’s improvisation.

“We’ve never had a run that’s the same. It’s different every single time,” said director Gabrielle Bauman, a sophomore theatre major.

At the core of the action are five individuals: the three actors, Bauman as director and sophomore Heather Lange as stage manager.

This production’s unique process certainly contributed to the actual show, but it affected more than just the acting and directing.

“It’s not a show, it’s an event,” Bauman said. “It’s a night that we’re creating for the audience.”

“Leave it to Jeeves: An Evening With Me – Bertie Wooster, and My Man, Jeeves” takes the stage 8 p.m. this Friday in Alford Auditorium.

“At the end of the day,” Widder-Varhegyi said, “there’s free food, live entertainment, and it’s a way to have a laugh on a Friday night.”

Michael Shawn Carbaugh II is a junior music composition major and arts & entertainment writer for Cedars. He enjoys all kinds of writing, whether it be with musical notes or descriptive words.

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