Plosive Production’s The Ugly One is a fine start to The Gladstone’s theatre season. It has an interesting script, an excellent cast, and good direction.
Lette (the ever-reliable actor David Whiteley) is a clever engineer who has built a fancy high voltage connector he calls the 2CK. It’s unique enough to have garnered a patent. But he’s blocked from presenting his creation at an important conference by his boss, the rather flakey Scheffler. She is played by a wonderful Sarah Dominique, who elicits smiles from the audience by intently peeling an imaginary orange. She says it’s obvious that Lette is far too ugly to succeed at the conference – no one can stand looking at him, much less believe his sales pitch. “Your face is unacceptable! You can’t sell anything with that face!” So Scheffler is sending Lette’s assistant, Karlmann (played with just the right touch of superciliousness by Andrew Hosale) to present the 2CK at the conference, even though the guy is just the plug tester.
Hurt and confused, Lette appeals to his sweet wife, Fanny (a fine performance from Julie Le Gal). But she informs him that, “I always admired you for coping so well. Because you’re unspeakably ugly.” She confirms what Scheffler told him: “Your face is so disastrous, you can’t sell anything.” But she assures him that, “I like the way you talk.” He wails, “So we have an acoustic relationship?”
One of the delights of The Ugly One is the quicksilver role-switching they accomplish.
In despair, Lette resorts to a plastic surgeon, played with manic glee by Dominique. Except for Whiteley, the other actors all play multiple roles. One of the delights of The Ugly One is the quicksilver role-switching they accomplish. Herr Doktor states emphatically that Lette’s face is such a disaster that she will have to rebuild the whole thing from scratch. Is Lette prepared to give up his face? Yes! He is so despondent that he agrees to do so. There follows one of the funniest medical procedures I’ve ever seen – or rather, ever heard – on stage. It’s worth the price of admission!
Post-surgery and swathed in bandages, Lette is understandably worried. The doctor assures him there’s no need to worry – “I’m a doctor so I’m supposed to say that.” Nevertheless, when wife Fanny unbandages him, they have the shock of their lives. For Lette is now absolutely gorgeous. Immediately, Fanny kisses him with a passion she’s never shown in their marriage. Back at work, Scheffler enthuses about his upcoming conference presentation.
But Lette soon discovers that there is such a thing as being too beautiful. And his life starts getting a bit surreal.
In conclusion, The Ugly One is a really good kickoff for The Gladstone’s 2019-20 season.
The Ugly One is playing at The Gladstone Theatre until October 5. The performance starts at 7:30pm. The play is 75 minutes long, with no intermission. Information and tickets are available online and at The Gladstone’s box office.