Some like to travel. Some don’t. I’m one of the latter folks, until I’m actually off and in the adventure. For example, I was on travel all last week to ACSAC in Orlando. I didn’t look forward to the travel, but I did look forward to the people I was with. I’m talking about travelling because last night we saw a play about travelling: “Travels with my Aunt”, based on the novel by Graham Greene, adapted by Giles Havergal. This was the fourth play in the six play Colony Theatre subscription season.
Before I came into this play, my mind was mixing up this play with a combination of “Travels with Charley” and “Charley’s Aunt” to give “Travels with My Aunt”. I was wrong. “Travels with My Aunt” is Graham Greene’s only book that he wrote for the fun of it. It starts at the funeral, where we meet Henrey, a 30-year bank manager who has just retired. The funeral is for Henrys’ mother. At the funeral, we meet his Aunt Augusta, who informs Henry that she needs a travelling companion, and that his father liked to sleep around his mother may not be his mother. From there, the travelling begins, with trips to Brighton, Istanbul, Brazil, and eventually Paraguy. As you can imagine, through all these journeys, Henry and Augusta meet numerous characters: college students, spies, nazi collaborators, police officers, porters, servents, and such.
Here’s the kicker: This show has a cast of four. That’s right. Four. They play all the parts, with two of the actors being primarily Henry and Augusta, and the other two actors playing all the other characters. Reminds one a bit of “The 39 Steps“. In some sense, this show is like that, but a little less madcap. I should mention, of course, that Aunt Augusta is played by a man. A man who does not dress like a woman. But guess what? If you give it a chance, it works (and works quite well). [Alas, about 20 audience members didn’t give it a chance, and left at intermission. Their loss.]
In a show like this, credit goes not only to the writer but to the director and the actors. Let’s start with the director, David Dean Bottrell, who does a great job of bringing out all of the different characters (20 in all) and making it clear that these are all different characters. This is done through voice, mannerisms, slight differences in costume, and actually isn’t confusing at all. This allows men to play women, women to play men, and men to even play dogs. The talented acting team helps here as well. In the lead positions we have Thomas James O’Leary as Henry (and the young Visconti). O’Leary has a friendly manner as Henry that draws you to him; he’s simple and likable, and you would want to travel with him. Mark Capri plays Aunt Augusta (and Sparrow). Capri plays August in men’s clothes, but becomes an excentric doddering aunt through mannerisms and voice alone. He does a great job with it. Rounding out the cast, playing the remaining 18 roles, as Larry Cedar and Sybyl Walker. Cedar played the Vicar, Wordsworth, The Dog, Hakim’s Assistant, Miss Patterson, O’Toole, and Yolanda. That’s right: a range that included a black African (Wordsworth), females, animals, and tourists. Walker played Miss Keane, Sparrow’s Assistant, Hatty, Tooley, an Italian Girl, Frau General, Hakim, a Spanish Gentleman, and the Older Visconti. That’s right, a range from men to women, from Caribbean to Nazi. You can imagine how crazy it could get… but it worked.
[All actors are members of Actors Equity ]
The technical side was strong. The scenic design by Michael C. Smith was simple: travel posters in the back, and crates and suitcases that were flexible enough (when the props and dressing by MacAndME were added) to become almost anywhere. SImilarly simple and flexible was the costume design by Sherry Linnell, which provided the merest hint or suggestion for each character. Lighting was by Jared A. Sayeg, with sound design by Cricket S. Myers. Rebecca Cohn was the production stage manager, and Robert T. Kyle was the Technical Director.
“Travels with My Aunt” continues through next weekend, December 18, 2011. Tickets are available through the Colony Theatre, and should be available through Goldstar. The remaining productions in the Colony Season are “Old Wicked Songs” (Feb. 1 to March 4, 2012) and “Dames at Sea” (April 11 through May 13, 2012).
Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: Theatre is quiet for the next few weeks; our next live theatre is at the end of December, when we see “Fela!” at the Ahmanson Theatre (on 12/29). Of course, there is the de rigueur movie and Chinese food on Christmas day. January will bring the first show of the REP East season, as well as (hopefully) “Art” at the Pasadena Playhouse and “God of Carnage” at ICT Long Beach (ticketed for February 5). February will also bring “Ring of Fire” at Cabrillo Music Theatre, “Old Wicked Songs” at the Colony Theatre, and Bernadette Peters in concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center. As always, open dates are subject to be filled in with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.