×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Theater Review: ‘Yes, Prime Minister’

With:
With: Dakin Matthews, Jefferson Mays, Michael McKean, Tara Summers, Brian George, Time Winters, Stephen Caffrey, Matthew Floyd Miller, Ron Bottitta, Sasha Higgins.

David Mamet’s trifle “November” suddenly looks like a political classic compared to Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn’s “Yes, Prime Minister.” Recycled and updated from a U.K.TV series, this stage comedy about, yes, a British prime minister and his problems with the euro, the crashing economy and a horny foreign minister from a country called Kumranistan is being given its American premiere at L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse. Really, a foreign minister demands three prostitutes before he signs off on a big deal — and that’s the play’s major crisis? Welcome to America, Jay and Lynn.

How much more entertaining is any night on MSNBC or Fox News. Characters with great names like Limbaugh and Bachmann and Palin and Weiner abound. And every day there’s another real scandal, another filibuster. One senses that Jay and Lynn might prefer the more fertile ground of America, because their British politicos here have to keep referring to life across the Atlantic to land jokes about drones, assassinations and enhanced-interrogation techniques. Even the players and controversy of the Keystone Pipeline trumps Jay and Lynn’s fictitious Kumranistan Pipeline, which will bring much-needed oil to Britain and the rest of Western Europe. If only the U.K. would join the euro and not be bothered with its affection for the pound.

Jay and Lynn drop the euro/pound controversy pretty early in act one to introduce the sex angle. It’s an improvement. Sex always is. But that the prime minister (Michael McKean) and his cabinet secretary (Dakin Matthews) and adviser-secretaries (Jefferson Mays and Tara Summers) would be in such a tizzy over booking three hookers (of different races! but all female, whew!) is just lame. Didn’t people in the White House do this for JFK all the time? And that was decades ago. Summers’ character actually phones the CIA for advice. You expect the Americans to laugh in the receiver. They don’t. Instead, she comes up with the euphemism “euro job” for what they must do to save Britain.

McKean doesn’t do much to affect a British accent and manner. Maybe that’s why he’s the only truly vital performer on stage. You can only imagine what fun he’d be having if he got to play some vulgar American president from Texas or Florida, and be allowed to cut loose. The restraint of Lynn’s lethargic direction is stultifying. As always, Mays turns himself into a walking cartoon, and has some delicious moments as the play’s big prude. Matthews begins strong as the pompous cabinet secretary, but Jay and Lynn make the mistake of repeating the character’s longwinded, nonsensical explanation of events in act one with an equally incomprehensible and long digression in act two. Amusing the first time, very annoying the second.

Set designer Simon Higlett replicates a stunning Chequers Court on stage. But are three sound designers — Andrea J. Cox, John Leonard and Jonathan Burke — required for the show’s thunderstorm? After this night in the theater, I’ll require one of those legit hearing aids they rent in the lobby.

Popular on Variety

Theater Review: 'Yes, Prime Minister'

(Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles; 507 seats, $77 top)

Production: A Geffen Playhouse presentation of a play in two acts by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.

Creative:  Directed by Lynn. Set, Simon Higlett; costumes, Kate Bergh; lighting, Daniel Ionazzi; sound designers, Andrea J. Cox and John Leonard; associate sound designer, Jonathan Burke. Opened and reviewed June 12, 2013. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast: With: Dakin Matthews, Jefferson Mays, Michael McKean, Tara Summers, Brian George, Time Winters, Stephen Caffrey, Matthew Floyd Miller, Ron Bottitta, Sasha Higgins.

More Legit

  • The Sound Inside review

    Broadway Review: 'The Sound Inside' Starring Mary-Louise Parker

    Mary-Louise Parker will take your breath away with her deeply felt and sensitively drawn portrait of a tenured Yale professor who treasures great literature, but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with. The other thesp in this two-hander is Will Hochman, endearing in the supportive role of a [...]

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content