Pantie Parade

Over his career, Steve Martin has had his eye on Goldie Hawn, Daryl Hannah and Heather Graham. Now it seems he's fixated on panties, as evidenced by the comedian-turned-playwright's wicked little farce The Underpants, running this month at the Alley Theatre. The comedy, based on German playwright Carl Sternheim's Die Hose, tells the story of a housewife named Louise who becomes famous when she inadvertently loses her panties at a parade for the king of Germany. The scandal begins immediately -- everyone's suddenly all up in Louise's lacies. "People get caught up in the romance of this woman's underpants," says Scott Schwartz, the show's director.

Of course, the play isn't really about lingerie, even though Schwartz assures us that we'll see "lots of underpants" over the course of the show. "To me, the play is about the facades that we present to the world," he says, "our kind of socially acceptable selves that we try to present to cover up what's really going on underneath -- our deeper human desires that we mask in our everyday lives." Schwartz adds that as a playwright, Martin is "an incredibly smart guy and has real questions about the human condition."

The show fluidly leaps from pantaloons to philosophy, and Martin, who's been called one of the greatest comedic minds of the 20th century, provides plenty of laughs. "He's brought his zaniness and his wildness that we remember from Saturday Night Live and from movies like The Jerk -- that wild, silly, totally over-the-top humor -- into this play," says Schwartz.

And then there are all those wonderful underpants. But don't come looking for any Victoria's Secret action. "Because it's set in 1910, you're not seeing a lot of skin," says Schwartz. "The humor is ribald, but I think this show would appeal to all ages." Of course, nobody's ever too young or too old for a good underwear joke.

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Lee Williams