August 16, 2011

Around the World in under Two Hours

Around the World in 80 Days is the only non-Shakespearean play in this year's Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. Reminiscent of Broadway's The 39 Steps, it features a terrific cast of 6 playing multiple roles, often in rapid-fire fashion. The exceptions were Richard Ercole as Phileas Fogg, and Susanna Stahlmann as Foley---providing sound effects, moving props around, keeping the story moving. I particularly enjoyed the rollicking, lightning round performances of Wesley Mann and Jason O'Connell. Poor Mr. Ercole had to play straight man in the face of the cast's (especially Mr. O'Connell's) frequent improvisations and relentless attempts to crack him up. It was a joy to watch them all having fun on stage.
Ryan Quinn's Passepartout was the perfect foil to the reserved and aristocratic Phileas. Vaishnavi Sharma played various male roles, but was mainly Aouda, saved from a suttee by the globe-trotting team. And just like The 39 Steps, I was most impressed with how they simulated travelling just with the aid of chairs and even a wheelbarrow. No balloons in sight here. The uproarious trans-American train sequence in particular was imaginatively staged. Brava to the actors for their physical comedy skills!
There was a wonderful Q & A with the audience after the show, with the entire cast and director Christopher Edwards.

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