Around the World in 80 Days
This production of Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale is as imaginative, creative, innovative and enjoyable as the book. It’s easily one of the best local productions in recent memory, and it’s hard to determine who’s having more fun—the talented cast or the appreciative audience.
What’s even more impressive is that the production is done without props, scenery or a large cast. Five actors portray more than 30 characters, with a sound-effects expert supplying the needed accompaniments. Right off the bat, it’s clear this is a quirky rendition. All the characters—except Fogg—are part farce, part slapstick, part vaudeville and entirely amusing. Any doubts about how this expansive story of a man circumventing the globe could be adapted to the stage quickly dissipate during the first scene.
Playwright Mark Brown has taken the essence of the story and painted it with broad strokes. What remains is a captivating and suspenseful tale of one man’s bet that he can race around the world in record time. This wasn’t easy in 1872, when long-distance travel was mostly limited to slow trains and ships. But anal-retentive Fogg never lets doubt creep into his life or goal.
Fogg (Michael Stevenson) and his well-meaning yet bumbling manservant Passepartout (Amy Resnick) travel from London through Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, New York and back to England. Unbeknownst to the traveling twosome, Detective Fix (Greg Alexander) is following behind, ready to arrest Fogg for robbing a bank.
Along the way, situations arise and characters emerge that both help and hinder Fogg’s trip. Elisabeth Nunziato and David Pierini play all the remaining roles (as do Resnick and Alexander when they aren’t playing their main characters). Though ethnic stereotypes pop up, they are dealt with by knowledgeable winks to the audience.
The biggest applause goes to director Buck Busfield, who steers this comedy train loose and fast but still on its tracks. He gives his cast the freedom to run, which it does. The individual performances are delightful while wonderfully collaborative.
Others deserving deep bows are stage manager Sara Newell, technical director Daniel Neeland, costume designer Abby Parker and sound-effects genius Willy Busfield.