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UNDERPANTS, THE Paperback – Bargain Price, November 20, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, November 20, 2002
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About the Author

Steve Martin is a celebrated writer, actor, and performer. His film credits include Father of the Bride, Parenthood and The Spanish Prisoner, as well as Roxanne, L.A. Story, and Bowfinger, for which he also wrote the screenplays. He's won Emmys for his television writing and two Grammys for comedy albums. In addition to a play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, he has written a bestselling collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, and a bestselling novella, Shopgirl. His work appears frequently in The New Yorker and The New York Times. He lives in New York and Los Angeles. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (November 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786888245
  • ASIN: B000Y8U5OO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,392,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on September 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
While Louise Maske is waiting for the king to pass by in Dusseldorf, 1910, the fastener on her underpants releases, and they fall about her ankles in public. In a matter of seconds, she has grabbed them and hidden them, and she expects that few, if any, people have noticed. Her husband Theo, however, a government clerk, is furious and fears that he may be fired from his job for her gaffe.

Adapting Carl Sternheim's sociopolitical farce from 1910 into a wildly burlesque romp appealing to a modern audience, actor/writer Steve Martin drops Sternheim's dated political satire and stresses instead the absurdity of instant fame and the unexpected opportunities it presents to people such as Louise Maske. The result might be termed an "anti-bedroom" farce, since the various sexual pairings and recombinations of characters which develop during this play, some of them devoutly wished for, remain outside the bedroom.

The Maskes have an extra bedroom in their apartment, and they quickly find themselves almost overrun with candidates who want to rent it after Louise's "episode." Versati, a poet, sees Louise as his muse, and he is anxious to have an affair with her (and she, with him), but after she rents the room to him, she discovers that Theo has also rented it to the sickly Benjamin Cohen, a barber who is willing to walk a long distance to his job, just so he can be in the presence of Louise. The room is subdivided, with each person paying almost full rent. In subsequent action, Louise's friend Gertrude gives Louise sexual advice while she also creates a newer, more beautiful set of undergarments for Louise. Two new characters appear, and several new opportunities for liaisons arise.
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Perhaps that's because "Underpants" is an adaptation of a 1910 comedy by Carl Sternheim.
The play is really about bored housewife Louise Maske, who is at a parade to see the king when her underpants fall down to her ankles. The event scandalizes her boorish husband Theo, who frets over what this could mean to his piddly job.
In no time, however, a couple smitten men who happened to witness the event turn up to try to rent out the single room, in hopes of getting closer to Louise. She finds herself taken with the idea of an affair with charismatic poet Versati, but sickly, lovesick Cohen keeps getting in their way.
What follows is an apparent comedy of errors, but either these particular issues don't translate well to the 2000s or, more likely, Martin's words meant for the stage don't necessarily translate well to the page.
Unless one is a diehard Martin fan, there's no reason to sift through the play over and over in order to appreciate it (although multiple readings do help). It's more bland than bad, though. But nothing of the quality of Martin's other works, like "Shopgirl" or the fantastic "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." Not even of his Academy Award hosting stints. (Remember the line "I took a 9-year-old kid to see 'Gladiator,' and he cried through the entire film. But maybe it's because he didn't know who I was."?)
In fact, there's really only one time it is certain that Martin is in the house, when Gertrude, Louise's busybody neighbor, announces that she has just come from the theater, to see a play by Sternheim.
Louise: "Should I see it?"
Gertrude: "Wait till it's adapted."
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By A Customer on January 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
I confess to not being familiar with the original German version of the play, but I appreciate the fact that Steve Martin was, and that he was in turn appreciative enough to think that it warranted an adaptation. Especially in an age where non-musical theater seems to be veering toward sentimentality or else trying too hard to prove itself to be edgy, it's great to read a play where the name of the game is as it always has been and should be - entertainment through engaging characters and interesting plot lines.
The play itself is very funny and retains enough of the "Old World" flavor to make it a unique piece of work when combined with the sensibilities of a sharp-witted writer like Martin. There were short sequences where the "old" Steve Martin humor snuck out, but overall he was very careful to present a new side of his taste that is as different from his other plays as his more recent films have been from his stand-up.
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Loved the fast receipt of this item for my friend's 50th birthday. Steve Martin is my favorite & we have a long standing joke about underwear so had to buy it. I just with I could have read it before I gifted it away!
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This play, adapted by Steve Martin from a crazy old German farce almost 100 years old, is fresh, bawdy, smart, and really really funny. Anyone who loves Steve Martin's literate-kooky mind will adore this! It was a hit in New York last year. It should be done at every theater around the country, and soon!
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Format: Paperback
The Underpants is Steve Martin's interpretation of a play written by German playwright Carl Sternheim in the early 1900s.

Louise, stretching on her tiptoes to get a better view of the King, has her underpants drop to the floor. Her husband, Theo, is scandalized, but the story revolves around the other men who witnessed this event, who try hard to get Louise to provide a second performance in her own home.

This is a comedy piece, through and through, although there are hints of the times with anti-Semitism ("That's Cohen with a K"), disparate gender roles, and sexual repression. Given the publicity associated with "wardrobe malfunctions" today, the story reflects culture's continuing interest in those "brief peeks" (pun intended).

I think it would be a blast to see this play in production. I missed my chance during the 2002-03 season of the Manoa Valley Theatre. And now that I've read the screenplay, I can sense that it would have been a hoot.

The Underpants, published in 2002 by Hyperion, is an attractive and well-constructed book, and it will give you a good sense of what to expect in a performance.
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