ANTOINE FEVAL BLENDS STAND UP COMEDY & THEATER
Unique one-man show at Stoneham Theatre
Antoine Feval is a small play. That is to say, it’s short—-barely an hour and twenty minutes long, with no intermission. It also has a cast of one, which is about as small as it gets.
Currently on stage at Stoneham Theatre, Antoine Feval is a one-man show performed by Tom Souhrada. The show was written by British comedian Chris Gibbs, and to date had been performed by Gibbs as a stand up act. The Stoneham production is the first attempt by anyone other than Gibbs to perform the work, and it is the first fully staged production.
There’s some good writing in Antoine Feval, but by far the best part of the Stoneham production is the skillful physical comedy of Souhrada. Playing a variety of characters, Souhrada incorporates moves worthy of the best mimes to illustrate the action and dialog to great effect.
Souhrada primarily inhabits the persona of Barnaby Gibbs, a kind-hearted by rather dim and clueless young Englishman at the turn of the 20th century. An avid fan of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Gibbs inadvertently becomes the bumbling Dr. Watson-like sidekick to brilliant detective Antoine Feval.
What Gibbs doesn’t see, due to his naivety and gullible nature, is that Feval is actually the master thief who has been robbing the city blind.
As Barnaby Gibbs, Souhrada eagerly recounts his adventures with Antoine Feval, intermittently slipping into other characters along the way. One of the funniest is the brash cockney police inspector who has a gift for mispronouncing words like perpetrator (“perteprator”), criminal (“crinimal”) and corpse (“corspe”).
But the most fun is watching Souhrada’s physical comedy, especially one scene where the drunk-as-a-skunk detective Feval tries unsuccessfully to maintain a seated position on a chair without sliding onto the floor.
Prior to the current Stoneham production, Antoine Feval had only been performed as a stand up piece by the author, Chris Gibbs. It’s much more theatrical than your average stand up comedy routine, and it’s easy to understand the temptation to adapt it for the theater. But somehow it doesn’t seem meaty enough to warrant a full-fledged theatrical treatment.
Antoine Feval seems to inhabit a place somewhere in between stand up comedy and theater. It’s clever and witty enough to hold its own as stand up, and Souhrada’s gift for physical comedy brings a theatrical quality not found in most stand up routines.
While Antoine Feval may be a work still trying to find its proper footing, Stoneham Theatre Artistic Director Weylin Symes deserves kudos once again for his willingness to take a risk on a show that is new and different.
Whether you consider it stand up or theater, Antoine Feval is still worth investigating.
Antoine Feval runs through January 27 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham. For show times and tickets go online at http://www.stonehamtheatre.org, or phone 781-279-2200.
[Antoine Feval, by Chris Gibbs. Directed by Weylin Symes. Set Design, Richard Chambers. Lighting Design, Scott Clyve. Sound Design, David Wilson. Costume Design, Joanna E. Murphy. Production Manager, Dave Brown. Production Stage Manager, Meghan Fisher. Featuring Tom Souhrada.]
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