One Man, Two Guvnors | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

One-Man-Two-Guvnors 75The audience participation is so well-timed and outrageous that you’ll wonder which moments of audience involvement were planned and which were just plain comedic luck!


One-Man-Two-Guvnors 500

Francis Henshall (Raymond McAnally) is hungry and horny. This pleasantly plump main character has his eyes set on Dolly (Ruth Pferdehirt), but before he can tend to his sex drive he absolutely must eat—a hearty helping of fish and chips if he may be so inclined!

To settle his roaring appetite, Henshall opts to serve two guvnors for some quick cash. The catch is these two guvnors must not find out about one another. Unfortunately, Henshall is easily disoriented, claiming his lack of substance is causing him to “wither away,” and confuses his duties for his respective masters from the get go. In his defense though, he is at the focal point of a very zany, uproarious plot that as an audience member is even hard to keep track of. (But you’d be crazy to let that keep you from coming! It’s part of the fun!)

You see, Henshall’s first guvnor is a homosexual gangster by the name of Roscoe. Roscoe was to marry the unintelligent but frilly Pauline Clench (Karis Danish) as payment of a debt owed to him by Pauline’s father Charlie Clench (Anthony Cochrane). (The marriage was meant to veil Roscoe’s sexuality as well). Except, Pauline and her father had received news that Roscoe was murdered and are celebrating Pauline’s new engagement to Alan (Luke Smith) when Henshall crashes the party and announces that Roscoe is certainly not dead.

But, he actually IS dead. Henshall thinks he’s serving Roscoe, but his guvnor is in fact Roscoe’s twin sister Rachel (Keira Keely) in disguise. Remember how I mentioned Pauline’s lack of smarts? Well she got that from her dear old dad; Charlie has not the slightest clue that he is being had. (In fact, he always described Rachel and Roscoe as identical twins despite their sexes, completely baffled by the concept of fraternal twins).

Why’s Rachel going to all of this trouble? She needs Charlie’s debt money to flee the country with her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers (Jack Fellows) because he murdered her brother Roscoe. She has no idea that Stanley too is in Brighton, England, and more importantly (and humorously) that Stanley is Henshall’s other guvnor. To complicate matters one step further, Henshall himself occasionally pretends to play another person, an Irishman named Patty, to blame for his own incompetence and also to woo Dolly.

Phew! And that’s only the setup! But as you can see, playwright Richard Bean pulled out all of the stops to ensure One Man, Two Guvnors—based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni—had the perfect premise to elicit waves of witty, physical, and fast-paced slapstick comedy!

There are several factors that make this play exceptional, but three that stand out above the rest:

  1. The physical comedy. Raymond McAnally is an absolute marvel as Henshall! He’s as silly as Curly from The Three Stooges and as tireless as Chris Farley. Whether he’s eating paper or pulling audience members onstage to move the props he feigns too weak to lift, he’s a comedic goldmine. Evan Zes, who plays the frail, pacemaker equipped hotel waiter Alfie, also does an exceptional job here, literally throwing himself from the stage multiple times during his main scene. You’ll gasp and laugh until your abs are sore at these two.
  2. The improvisation. The fourth wall isn’t broken in this play; it is absolutely obliterated! The audience participation is so well-timed and outrageous that you’ll wonder which moments of audience involvement were planned and which were just plain comedic luck! The Rep isn’t kidding when it describes itself as “live theatre so close you can feel it!” This is the type of show that will be slightly different every time you see it.
  3. The music. You didn’t know there was music did you! Set in 1963, the play features a skiffle band during scene transitions, and even the actors can’t help but to occasionally take part. Henshall had been a member of a skiffle band before serving two guvnors, you know.

And lastly, my three pieces of advice:

  1. Seat yourselves early; The WoolfPak skiffle band provides some pre-show entertainment.
  2. Don’t judge the play by its opening scene. The accents are so harsh, the jokes so blah, and Henshall so unlikeable in the opening scene that I personally worried for how the rest of the play would go. It gets immediately funnier, though, so force yourself to laugh at the opening punchlines; they’ll be worth it.
  3. Listen Carefully. The entire play is hilarious and fast; you won’t want to miss a moment of it once it takes off! However, sometimes punchlines flew out so fast that they were hard to hear because the audience was still laughing at the previous funny bit! This is one of many reasons I’d go back to see this show a second time! | Megan Washausen

One Man, Two Guvnors—The Repertory Theatre’s 48th mainstage season opener—runs through Oct. 5. For ticket information, visit

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