Opening this weekend, Sonoma Arts Live brings to the stage an evening of good old fashioned theater.
The play “Jeeves Intervenes,” written by Margaret Raether, is set in 1920s London high-society and was adapted from the stories of early 20th century English writer P.G. Wodehouse.
Director James Jandak Wood says he first saw “Jeeves Intervenes” performed three years ago in British Columbia.
“I laughed all the way through,” says Wood. “I thought Sonoma audiences would enjoy it.”
The opportunity became a reality when Sonoma Arts Live focused this season’s theme on, “The Way We Were: A Look Back,” highlighting pre-internet, pre-high tech times.
Wood, a filmmaker and playwright, is no stranger to local productions. This is his third directing effort for Sonoma Arts Live and the first for SAL he’s adapted from another playwright.
“I enjoy collaborating with the actors in deciphering what Raether or Wodehouse meant to convey in a particular line or scene,” he says.
The play is set in an elegant parlor in the posh Mayfair section of London. Through Wodehouse’s stories, Jeeves has become an iconic figure – the legendary valet for Bertie Wooster, a hapless young man born to privilege. In his pursuit of the good life, Bertie regularly finds himself in awkward predicaments. Like when his interfering Aunt Agatha Spencer-Grayson connives to marry him off and end his bachelorhood. Unhappy with such an ill-suited arrangement, Jeeves, as the play suggests, intervenes.
“Jeeves is up to the task. He’s the most intelligent man in the room,” Wood says. “He brings calm and order to the chaos and confusion around him.”
The cast has been trained to employ a posh London accent. “On occasion we use a dialect coach to help out,” Wood says.
Sonoma resident Delaney Brummé plays Bertie in the production.
“Bertie is a fun loving guy. His goal is to enjoy life to the fullest,” says Brummé.
Brumme says he had to shave his beard for the part and that helped him transition into the role of Bertie Wooster.
“We all have our fun loving side (and) sometimes that’s repressed,” says Brumme. “But not with Bertie.”
Libby Oberlin plays the role of Gertrude Winklesworth-Bode, Bertie’s philosophy quoting would be paramour.
“I put on white gloves, keep my back straight and arms folded in front. The physicality gets me in character. And the lines provide the wit,” Oberlin says. “I’m used to playing dramatic roles where I cry or scream. It’s so nice to smile and flirt.”
Oberlin and her husband moved to Sonoma seven years ago from New York City where she was active in the theater. She is familiar to Sonoma audiences for her performances in “Ann” and “Proof.”
Performances are May 11 to 27 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.,in Andrews Hall at the Sonoma Community Center.
Opening night festivities include a pre-show reception at 6:30 p.m. Guests are encouraged to wear period dress, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary Uncle Val’s gin martini. Pianist John Partridge will play popular tunes of the 1920s. Tickets are $22 to $37 at sonomaartslive.org.
What: ‘Ask Jeeves’
When: May 11 to 27 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Where: Shows are performed on the Rotary Stage in Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center.
Tickets: Can be purchased online at www.sonomaartslive.org.