The Underpants
Photo: Jim Cox.

The Underpants

Old Globe Theatre, San Diego

Written by Steve Martin

Adapted from the play by Carl Sternheim

Directed by Walter Bobbie

The Old Globe, San Diego

July 27 – September 8, 2019

“The Underpants” will get you hot under the collar but not as intended by author Steve Martin.

Martin’s adaptation of an early 20th century German play that satirizes middle-class morals centers on the fallout when a woman’s Edwardian-era underpants fall to her ankles after she leaps up on a park bench hoping to catch the glimpse of royalty in a passing parade. Eyewitness reports of the incident spread like wildfire.

As a result, her low-rung bureaucrat husband Theo (Eddie Kaye Thomas) fears losing his job and reputation; a poet named Versati (Luis Vega) pursues the woman in search of a muse; a barber named Cohen (Michael Bradley Cohen) has his own designs on the woman and snoopy, spinster neighbor Gertrude (Joanna Glushak) see an opportunity to live vicarious through young Louise (Regina De Vera), a repressed/bored housewife who is suddenly the focus of everyone’s attention and adoration.

This promising set up for an evening of laughs and social commentary is unfortunately eclipsed by juvenile humor, double (verging on triple and quadruple) entendres, and sight gags such as over-sized engorged sausages on the dinner table and firm round loaves of bread on a tray at chest level proffered by Louise to Cohen. Ahem.  

Martin’s adaptation originally written in 2002 played well back then. The production is a questionable choice by The Old Globe in the #MeToo era.

By Lynne Friedmann

San Diego ,
Lynne Friedmann, based in San Diego, is an award-winning, freelance writer of news, feature articles, and blogs on science, travel, and the arts. Her decades-long passion for theater was sparked as a teen when the Inner City Cultural Center commandeered classroom curricula by bringing classic plays to urban high schools in Los Angeles.