At the 59 E 59 Theaters, a very funny throwback show is going on. Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, is a Music Hall style review that travels from humorous to hilarious. The piece plays off a 1942 US Army pamphlet of the same name that tried to explain the British to American servicemen.
The audience is treated as a newly arrived squadron of Army Air Corps being briefed on the traditions of the British. The three man cast is excellent and also wrote the story: Dan March, James Millard and Matt Sheahan. They each play a main character and occasionally bring secondary characters to life.
L-R: James Millard, Dan March in Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain. Photo by Lidia Crisafulli
The play doesn’t have an overarching theme, but plays off a series of vignettes that flow as information to the new troops. All are funny, but some are hilarious. Matt Sheahan’s explanation of the British monetary system in the forties - the time of shillings, pence and farthings - is confusing, impenetrable and wildly funny.
Dan March’s American Colonel is the epitome of a period of US bluster and self-importance. He is the ugly American that makes you laugh both with and at him.
James Millard plays a perfect American guide, trying to bridge the differences, keep the peace and move the training along, without offending either side. Mr. Millard also indulges in the odd British tradition of dressing up in female drag and acting with broad farcical effect. It is dated and silly, but still oddly charming and humorous.
The audience loved the show, despite a wide range of ages. The three man troupe engages in a lot of audience banter. To their credit, they are able to work both when the audience joins in, and when they have a bunch of stiffs sitting there.
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain is a slight and dated show, but somehow it works even better as a period piece. Today the jokes would be stereotypes and not funny, but here, taking the piss out of both sides, it is all obviously in good fun.
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain
Director : John Walton / Playwrights & Cast: Dan March, James Millard, Matt Sheahan