Review: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS - Non-Stop Hi-jinks With Some Very Entertaining Bits

By: Sep. 12, 2016

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS/by Mark Brown/directed by Allison Bibicoff/The Matrix Theatre/thru October 9, 2016

Those nostalgic for Three Stooges slapstick or old-time vaudeville will thoroughly enjoy playwright Mark Brown's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. The very committed cast of five enact 30+ different characters, sometimes within the same scene. Allison Bibicoff directs her talented cast in a relentless pace, never stopping in between the barrage of some funny physical comedy bits and clever sight gags with the available props (hidden hand of playing cards, expandable cane, slap-on emblems, the waving fabric of ocean).

Brown's adaptation of Jules Verne's 1873 novel charts the same course as the novel's main character Phileas Fogg, as he and his butler Passepartout travel the globe in 80 days to win an improbable wager. Thaddeus Shafer maintains the reserved, tightly guarded, anal attitude of the very dry, methodical Fogg. So welcomed to see Shafer get a chance to express Fogg's repressed levity near the end.

Michael Uribes pulls out all his stops in his very physically comical, French-accented Passepartout, especially in the scene when he's drunkenly defends Fogg's honor. Uribes' a never-ending source of comic reactions and pratfalls.

Gabriel Oliva nails all his assortment of international characters with his comic chops and strong grasp of diverse accents. Only misstep would be his stereotypical Chinese interpretation. (So glad they didn't have to stop in Africa. Would hate to see the blackface attempts.)

Sujana Chand ably grounds the continuous silliness as the rescued human sacrifice-to-be Aouda. Her subtle longings directed at Fogg play nicely against Fogg's obliviousness.

Brian Stanton gives distinction to his collection of characters, with his stage time mainly spent as Detective Fix, doggedly on the hunt for the mysterious gentlemen thief he's just certain has to be Fogg.

The cast make full resourceful use of Chris Schmidt's clever set and props featuring a full-sized map of the world with hidden pull-out sections morphing into office desks, a liquor cart, a ship's steering wheel. The center platform with the addition of the differently positioned camouflage-painted chairs (that blend into the map), transform into various forms of transportation - a train, a sled, a ship, even an elephant. Nice in-sync movements of the cast to simulate the bumpiness of a train ride; the violent, rocking ocean waves; the clomping of the elephant.


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From This Author - Gil Kaan

      Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas of film, television, and stage in hi... (read more about this author)


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