Puttin’ on the Brits

From left, Don Wilkins, Gail Liston and Brian Lucas will be putting on the ritz during two nights of  British sketch comedy Friday and Saturday at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts as a benefit for WICA community theater. - Cynthia Woolbright
From left, Don Wilkins, Gail Liston and Brian Lucas will be putting on the ritz during two nights of British sketch comedy Friday and Saturday at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts as a benefit for WICA community theater.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

They’re strolling down Camano Av-en-ue so happy.

They’re dressed up in their British snazzies.

Very snappy.

Don’t be blue and don’t know where to go.

Come see Don and Brian put on another show.

Fri-day and Saturday they’ll be swapping smart tidbits.

WICA’s “Puttin’ on the Brits.”

Take two Brits, toss in an American actress with a cheeky knack for Cockney slang and you’ve got two humorous evenings of British sketch comedy to benefit Whidbey Island Center for the Arts’ community theater productions.

Following the success of the October 2003 benefit engagement of John Mortimer’s “The Dock Brief,” British natives Don Wilkins and Brian Lucas return, along with Gail Liston, to offer “Puttin’ on the Brits.”

Two casually fun evenings will feature a showcase of 15 sketches, two musical interludes with fellow British brother Ray Cooke on piano, and an intermission or two during which people can head into a timbered pub, The Sticky WICA.

Walking into the WICA front lobby, pub guests will be able to reach up and touch the faux blackened oak beams and see where horse brass adorns the walls. Theater goers will be able to pick up a game of darts, skittles, or watch the England versus South Africa cricket game on the tellie.

“Puttin’ on the Brits” is a blend of the tongue-in-cheek and the cheeky. The satire will be in the same tone made famous by Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Monty Python. It is a witty blend of 4 o’clock teas, institutions, education, family, art and crime. Many of the sketches will play on the every day humor found in the every day life of the British, according to Wilkins.

Wilkins is familiar to many South Whidbey residents as the actor and director who last year brought good friend Lucas to town to act in “The Dock Brief.” The two-day run was but a return engagement for the duo. During the 1970s and 1980s, Wilkins and Lucas traveled around Palo Alto, Calif., and the surrounding area performing the “Don and Brian Show,” a two-hour showcase of original sketch comedies with distinctively British humor. Both are Londoners and both are prime examples of the variety in the British people.

“The moment we met and first spoke we could tell exactly where we were from,” Wilkins said.

It was that history between Lucas and Wilkins that allowed Liston to step into her sketch roles with only a few weeks of rehearsals.

“Don and Brian were so well prepared because they’ve worked together so long,” Liston said. “Their timing is incredible and they always know what the other is going to do.”

So far, the British gents report their American female co-star has been holding up her end of the script well. As she should. Liston has a few Brits in her family tree and she holds a masters degree in acting from California State University, Fullerton. During her studies, her years on stage as a performer and as a stage teacher, she’s had to cover her American speech pattern with British English before.

“Puttin’ on the Brits” will be an education for many in the wonders of the British language. The comedy plays with the British’s love for language — puns, simple rhythms, word play, turns of a phrase and stammering of slurred lines and sentences finished only by pregnant pauses.

“Expect English eccentricities,” Wilkins said.

Eccentric? The British class distinctions and its structure have created some interesting characters. Such as the two uncultured chaps standing smack dab in the middle of the Tate Museum in London? How about the theater lovies?

“They’re always acting no matter what they are doing and things are always dramatic for them,” Lucas said.

The Americans in the seats shouldn’t worry. Even Liston doesn’t understand the punch-lines all the time, but she laughs anyway.

“It’s a dry humor,” Liston said. “In listening to the words it’s something that anyone can enjoy, because there’s clever word play that you’d never hear in America.”

If the language gets to thick, atleast people can stop by the Sticky WICA, where British brews will be on tap and you’re likely to find a couple of good plunks.

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