NEW YORK — Trusting your gut is an essential guideline in the reviewing business. So if your gut aches as much as mine did all through the rhapsodically silly shenanigans of “One Man, Two Guvnors,” you’ll know for certain that a Broadway show indeed can hurt so good.
I cannot remember the last time two hours of dramatic foolishness, lacking the slightest microscopic particle of redeeming social value, filled me with so much bliss. The buffoonish brainchild of playwright Richard Bean and director Nicholas Hytner of London’s National Theatre, the comedy — leavened further by interludes of bluegrass and rock-and-roll by the musical quartet the Crave — will buoy any living soul who possesses both a ticket and a funny bone.
Set near the start of the swinging ‘60s in the archetypal English resort town of Brighton, “One Man, Two Guvnors” is based loosely but ever so cunningly on Carlo Goldoni’s 16th century comedy “The Servant of Two Masters” — which of all things happens to be the next show up at Shakespeare Theatre Company. In regard to the plot: I can report it has one. But let’s not dwell on the small things, shall we?
No, the point here is how the British ensemble — led by the captivatingly winning James Corden as a charming English boob indentured clandestinely to both a thug and a fop — performs it all with the relish of a marauding flotilla and the stealth of a pack of (Monty) pythons. It’s almost criminal not to list every knockout performance, but let’s offer a special tip of a Bobby’s cap to Oliver Chris, as the outrageous fop; Daniel Rigby, portraying an actor so hammy you could serve him with Swiss; Tom Edden, in a riotous turn as an 87-year-old waiter, and Suzie Toase, playing the sort of assets-flaunting British bird who would have sent Benny Hill into the stratosphere.
Evenings like this one at the Music Box Theatre, where “One Man, Two Guvnors” had its official opening Wednesday night, seem to pass this way but rarely. If I had my druthers, I’d make its restorative powers a compulsory item on any prescription for a full and happy life.