This year’s Brits Off Broadway series has been launched with “Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain,” an intended comic romp by three men in a play directed and co-written by John Walton and presented as if the audience were World War II GIs at a base in England being informed about their surroundings and duties. Some of it is funny, but the humor eventually becomes too bloody silly. The show has been adapted from the Bodleian Library’s publication, Instructions for American Servicemen, 1942.
All three actors are listed as co-writers. Before the show begins uniformed James Millard as Lieutenant Schultz affably approaches audience members to converse. He and I chatted a bit. I told him how my airman cousin based in England during the war was astonished when a gal he met invited him to “Knock me up sometime,” an expression that in England simply means give me a call or visit, much different than our American definition. Millard laughed and said he might use that.
When the show itself begins, Dan March as imperious Colonel Atwood starts to harangue us (we troops) and presumes to educate us. The comedy stems from an avalanche of misinformation, bumbling and wordplay, and the show assumes the nature of a satire. Eventually we get the presence of Matt Sheahan as the British Major Gibbons and there is generous horseplay with the interaction of all three. They are very funny guys as performers, but the material begins to wear than and then sucks in the second act.
There is use of a bit of puppetry in a satirical portrayal of German officers addressing their troops, but soon the action moves into “Apple Day” dancing and things get nuttier and nuttier. Corny audience participation is solicited. Handkerchiefs are passed out for waving as directed. I have to say that many in the audience at the performance I attended seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely in taking part.
If this sort of crazy comedy is your cup of tea, you may have a good time. But by early into the second act I had had enough. A59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, Phone: 646-892-7999. Reviewed April 22, 2019.