Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
How do you solve a problem like Maria ain't nothing considering the obstacles facing Ben: for 43 years, his uncle Willie and Al Lewis were the eponymous duo, the classic comedy act who hated each other. All he has to do is bring them together for one night, as part of a tribute to the Golden Age of Comedy.
Conflict may be the basis of drama, but every single scene has Willie spectacularly falling out with somebody. And you have nearly as long as a wait as that for Godot before Al Lewis shows up, but Andrew Schofield as always lives up to expectations - a revelation as a sly, waspish old man who meets his match in Alan Stocks' contradictory curmudgeon.
Made in heaven nonetheless, for this odd couple have a chemistry which makes spark fly, a comedy making the audience roar. No easy task either, with old-fashioned routines and constant repetition but bone dry humour leaves you thirsty for more. That said, one tiny quibble because it overwhelms any poignant moments.
Stephen Fletcher as the well-meaning nephew is valiant without grating as a do-gooder, while brother Michael with Liam Tobin produce their own neat little double act: acerbic TV producer and somewhat gormless assistant.
And a scrumptious, over the top Blonde Bombshell cameo from Helen Carter, a McGill postcard come to life, carrying on with all before her in the TV sketch, an interesting contrast with her role as Willie's brunette worldweary carer. Purists/feminists may well object to the former but the audience joyfully over-rules them.
Theatre may be traditionally dark over Summer, and already the nights are drawing in, but this show will brighten everything up for you no end.
- Carole Baldock