BWW Reviews: Village's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS Fails to Thrill
A series of journal entries may work well as a literary device but as a theatrical endeavor it tends to fall flat. Unfortunately, Village Theatre's current stage interpretation of Jules Verne's famous novel "Around the World in 80 Days" falls into the latter category as the storytelling gets itself mired in such a passive voice that it just wasn't very interesting.
It all comes to pass as it should. The ordered and precise Phileas Fogg (Jared Michael Brown) accepts the wager as to whether or not he can make it around the world in 80 days. So he and his man servant Passepartout (Chris Ensweiler) begin the journey that will take them through many countries and encounter many varying characters all played by the small ensemble of actors. But most notably they encounter the young Indian woman Aouda (Aneesh Sheth) and are pursued by the relentless Scotland Yard Detective Fix (Eric Polani Jensen).
Seems like a perfect vehicle for multiple antics and crazy hijinks and while there are many, the adapter of the novel Mark Brown feels the need to list most of what happens rather than show it. And being told about an exciting journey is about as thrilling as watching someone else's vacation slides. True, there are some active moments in the piece but not nearly enough which kept the play from grabbing me and carrying me away with it. Mostly it felt like the author used the story to have the ensemble pop up in varying guises thinking that was enough to make it fun. It is not.
The ensemble and director David Ira Goldstein do what they can with this passive tale like going all out with some of the fun characters and putting in plenty of slapstick but even that felt a little forced as if they were trying way too hard to make up for such a lackluster script. But they certainly do try. Brown makes for a dashing and stalwart Fogg but even he felt like more of a supporting character in the piece as the writer seemed more interested in focusing on Passepartout and the other crazy characters. Ensweiler unleashes much of his usual clown like antics and high energy acrobatics for the role but came across more as an over the top interpretation of Cantinflas (who played the role in the film). Jensen makes for an enjoyable foil and obstacle for the piece but also comes across as a bit one note due to the script as almost every moment is about getting that damn warrant to arrest Fogg. We know you're waiting for the warrant. We got it! Sheth takes on the role of the damsel in distress fine and is quite likable but isn't given much to do except be a damsel in distress and eventual love interest. And Jason Collins who takes on the brunt of the multiple characters of the piece is quite fun in his varying roles and keeps them all very distinctive but you cannot base an entire story on multiple costumes.
When it's all said and done with its overly simplistic storytelling style and high energy antics the play felt more suited to Children's Theatre and not the mainstage at Village. And because of that the adult theatergoer in me reacted with a MEH (using my three letter rating system). It didn't thrill, it didn't annoy, it just landed on the stage with a giant thud and kind of sat there. And I expect more for my theater enjoyment.
"Around the World in 80 Days" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through March 1st and then moves onto their Everett location running March 6th through the 29th. For tickets or information contact the Village Theatre box office in Issaquah at 425-392-2202 or in Everett at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.