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BWW Reviews: Travels with My Aunt at the Walnut's Independence Studio


Currently showing at the Walnut Street's Independence Studio on 3 is Graham Greene's hilarious Travels with My Aunt adapted for the stage by Giles Havergal. At his mother's funeral retired banker Henry Pulling meets his Aunt Augusta for the first time. Being each other's last living relations, they quickly begin to develop a relationship. Augusta is quirky and quite bubbly for a seventy-five year old woman, but Henry quickly learns her past and present are filled with men and scandal.  As Henry begins traveling with his aunt he meets a cast of characters ranging from smugglers, secret agents, young girls, police officers, and palm readers.

Four actors perform over two-dozen roles, changing characters, ages, ethnicities, and genders at the drop of a hat. Their ability to shift roles is astounding. Buck Schirner, Paul Riopelle, and David Bardeen rotate the role of Henry, and their characterization is so flawless, that in this part they appear one and the same. Buck Schirner also plays Aunt Augusta with a great flair that entrances and makes him truly seem a well-experienced woman of the world. Paul Riopelle shows an uncanny ability to portray women. Four of his nine roles are women, ranging from a German general's wife, to an American college girl, to an Italian girl to the daughter of the police chief of Paraguay. His shifts in body language and accents are flawless, making each character incredibly distinct. David Bardeen also portrays many characters of different nationalities. Particularly distinct is his portrayal of Wordsworth, Augusta's South African lover. His ability to change his body, morphing into different characters, is simply uncanny. Dan Hodge has the smallest number of lines of any cast member, but he stands out in the parts he has to work with through moments and side looks. His chance to shine comes in one of the funniest parts of the show in which he completes a scene change by tangoing with furniture. It is a testament to all four actors and the direction of John Peakes that they are easily believable as a cast of many characters.

The show has a basic wood set designed by Robert Kramer that is very stylized. Each act features furniture and artwork of different styles to fit the setting. What is really interesting is the use of two screens to name the setting of the scene. This assists the audience's comprehension of the jumping of location and time periods.  The sound design by Christopher Colucci and lighting design by Shon Causer are perfectly adequate. The costumes, designed by Megan Diehl, are very simple - for the majority of the show all four actors wear brown suits, with a white button-down shirt, maroon sweater vest and a tie. The plain costumes allow them to easily shift between roles. There are no extra accessories to help them in these changes, making the task even more challenging.

Though the ultimate outcome of Travels with My Aunt may be fairly easy to predict, the adventure never is. The story is so full of plot turns and interesting (albeit often shady) characters as the audience experiences the journey along with Henry.  If you're looking for a hilarious play with incredibly talented actors, this is definitely your show. The biting humor and mystery of Aunt Augusta's affiliations keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, laughing as they wait to see what crazy thing will happen next.


Travels with My Aunt plays at the Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio on 3 through April 18th. For more information please see the official press release.


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From This Author Sarah Marcus

Sarah Marcus has been an avid theater-goer since a young age, attending many shows in NYC, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. In the past few years (read more...)