By Dan March, James Millard, Matt Sheahan and John Walton; Directed by John Walton
Produced by Fol Espoir in association with Jermyn Street Theatre and The Real MacGuffins
Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 9.12.16
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Regina Robbins on 4.26.19
Matt Sheahan and Dan March in Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain. Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.
BOTTOM LINE: Americans are silly! Brits are silly! This show is silly!
As a serious Anglophile (like, someone who follows news about the royal family and loves Gilbert & Sullivan), I would seem to be the target audience for Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain. Adapted from—or more accurately, inspired by—a pamphlet provided to Yankees being sent across the Atlantic for WWII, this overlong play follows the attempts of American Lt. Schultz (James Marshall) to keep the peace between his superior, Col. Atwood (Dan March) and a local officer, Maj. Gibbons (Matt Sheahan). As one might predict, the two misunderstand each other's colloquialisms and pastimes; the Englishman finds the Americans pushy and they consider him uptight. In other words, the usual US vs. UK jokes.
The cast of three, who co-wrote the show with their director, John Walton, come from the world of sketch comedy, and it shows. The play feels like Monty Python had a baby with all the bits that go on way too long on Saturday Night Live. Though its gags aren't especially original, some of them still produce giggles, such as a "role play" in which Schultz, a failed actor, portrays Gibbons' wife, and a weird interlude in which German spies practice being British by under-reacting to even the worst possible news. But for every borderline-wrong flight of fancy, there's another crack about England's weather which—maybe you've heard?—is dreary!
Much like WWII, there is no avoiding audience participation at Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, either individually or as a group. You will be barked at by Atwood, cajoled by Schultz, and given dancing lessons by Gibbons. So if you're game for jokes about Marmite and cricket and want to get in on the cultural-stereotype action, tally-ho! Now pardon me while I make myself a cuppa and listen to H.M.S Pinafore.
(Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street Street, through May 12, 2019. The running time is 2 hours 10 minutes with an intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:15; Saturdays at 2:15 and 7:15; and Sundays at 7:15. Tickets are $25 - $35 and are available at 59e59.org or by calling 646-892-7999.)
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain is by Dan March, James Millard, Matt Sheahan and John Walton. Directed by John Walton. Set and Costume Design by Martin Thomas. Sound Design by Jon McLeod. Production Stage Manager is Sean Francis Patrick.
The cast is Dan March, James Millard, and Matt Sheahan.