One Man, Two Guvnors is all about the “one man,” Francis Henshall. The hapless hero is part bozo and ever hungry for fish and chips as he pulls double-duty for two demanding employers: one a gangster in disguise, the other a criminal on the lam. In the play’s regional premiere, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company former resident Matthew Lewis Johnson is the winsome doofus at the center of this commedia dell’arte adapting Carlo Goldoni’s A Servant of Two Masters to the British beach resort of 1960s Brighton. It’s a role that demands a master of comedy—pratfalls, slamming doors, double entendres—and one Johnson is well suited for. “He’s one of the best improv people I know,” says Director Brian Isaac Phillips, who also serves as CSC’s producing artistic director. “There are places in the script that just say: Moment with audience. Do what you will.”
A member of Cincy Shakes’s resident company until 2010, Johnson is currently a visiting assistant professor in theater at Eastern Kentucky University, which only allows him occasional forays onto the stage. He shows no signs of rust. When his character breaks the fourth wall—and he does fairly often—he takes the entire audience along for the ride. Be ready for a supporting role.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, June 12–July 5, cincyshakes.com