|L-R: Matt Sheahan and Dan March in Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain. Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.|
Broad, slapstick British humor may not be everybody’s cup of tea but if it does happen to be yours, you might want to catch The Real MacGuffins (Dan March, James Millard and Matt Sheahan) in Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, currently enjoying its US premiere as part of this year’s Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan. The Real MacGuffins, a leading sketch group on the British comedy circuit, adapted Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain from a pamphlet of the same name issued by the Americn War Office in 1942 to prepare GIs being sent to England during World War II for the idiosyncrasies of British (life ranging from cricket to the country’s inclement weather and from the near-incomprehensibility of the British monetary system to Brits’ predilection for warm beer).
The play takes place in 1942 when a horde of American GIs have arrived in England only to be confronted by a people ostensibly speaking the same language as Americans do but with so many customs so different from our own as to make social intercourse immensely difficult. Two American officers, Lieutenant Schultz (James Millard) and Colonel Atwood (Dan March) have been given the responsibility of instructing the newly-arrived American troops and they are joined in their effort by a British officer, Major Gibbons (Matt Sheahan).
The characters are just what we have come to expect in British productions of this genre. Lieutenant Schultz is another version of Jack Armstrong. Colonel Atwood is the Iowa farm boy who has risen through the ranks but still remembers the dance steps to “kick the pig.” And Major Gibbons is the relatively effete officer whose mother (also played by James Millard) still embarrasses him by telling his associates of the ballet lessons he took as a child.
The play breaks no new ground. The characters are stereotypical and caricature-ish. But that is not to say that they aren’t entertaining for they most certainly are. Moreover, all three performers are consummate comedians and, at least at the performance I attended, the audience really seemed to love them and to enjoy the show.