“Around The World in 80 Days” “Oh! The places you will go!”
By Carol Davis
CORONADO, California — Hang on to your hats, join in on the fun and get ready for an 80 day around-the-world adventure that will only take a little over two hours of your time, but it will be time well spent. Forget about the balloon and put on your imagination caps for a journey with some folks you will get to know in that time frame, and more importantly, some you will probably want to meet up with on your next trip.
Lamb’s Players Theatre long awaited Around The World in Eighty Days by Laura Eason adapted from the novel by Jules Verne is here and just waiting for you to hop aboard (in no particular order) a train, steamship, an elephant, pirate ship, a hammock like sledge (you have to see this contraption) and then back to steamship and trains.
And from Dr. Seuss: “Oh! The places you’ll GO! You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high flyers who soar to great heights!” You will be traveling to Mongolia, Hong Kong, Bombay, Calcutta, the Suez Canal and Egypt, Singapore, Yokohama, the American West and New York.
Artistic director Robert Smyth has stayed pretty much committed to the Jules Verne 1873 classic adventure in this sprawling 80-day epoch that brought the magic to life, in part by set designer Michael McKeon (based on an idea by Jacqueline and Richard Penrod) and technical engineer Brandon Farley who made this all happen and, as mentioned earlier sans the help of a hot air balloon. (It’s not in the novel but is a central character in the 1956 movie version). But wait until you see the elephant!
Briefly, our central character Phileas Fogg (Lance Arthur Smith is a perfect fit as the mysterious, meticulous and methodical Fogg) is at his Reform Club where his whist partners are discussing a recent bank robbery. The robber got away scot-free with fifty thousand pounds from the Bank of London.
They argue back and forth about how this robber could or not get away with the crime. It is now 1872 and Fogg pipes in that the world has grown smaller (then it was 100 years ago) because of the completion of the new Great Indian Peninsular Railway, making it much easier to make it around the world in 80 days (a mathematical fact according to Fogg) thereby eluding the law. By making this statement he contradicts some of his friends who insist that it would take three months. At this time, a twenty-thousand pound wager is agreed upon that sets this tale into motion.
Fogg, whose routine is exactly the same everyday, summons his Parisian valet Passepartout (Brian Barbarin) who claims to have been a singer, horse rider, trapeze artist, tight rope walker and goat herder, to take “two carpet bags with the bare essentials” along with the Bradshaw Guide that contains timetables of every steamer and railway in the world, and be prepared for some travel.
If he’s to win the bet, he must make all the right connections. However even without airline delays that are so much a part of our now daily lives, unexpected trials and tribulations will get in the way of our fellow travelers. (Barbarin is perfect as the versatile decoy who does yeoman’s work as the over-the-top clown and do all -be all servant to Smith’s steady-as-she goes gentlemanly aura.)
And the trek begins on the train with the first stop in Brindisi and from there to Bombay via Suez. It is here we meet up with Inspector Fix. Yup! Inspector Fix in the person of Jon Lorenz. He follows Fogg throughout the journey convinced that Fogg is the thief that masterminded the bank robbery. If you combined Colombo, Inspectors Clouseau and Poirot, Lorenz is their embodiment. He hides behind newspapers, peeks around corners and is, in general a royal pain in the arse. His goal is to stop Fogg at his own game, slow him down in anticipation of an arrest before he sets foot back on British soil. Unfortunately for him ‘twas not the case, as he was outwitted by Fogg and company at every turn.
One of the most interesting characters we meet up is Kamana Aouda in the person of Kaja Amado Dunn daughter of a wealthy merchant and recent widow. In India, Fogg rescues her after a near-death mishap and the two become traveling companions, which in turn puts a little zip in Fogg’s step. I’ll let you watch that one play out because Ms. Dunn is so convincing, and yes a bit coy as the sought-after and beautiful Aouda. (Credit Jeanne Barnes Reith for the amazing costumes and wigs). In fact her accent, at least to my ears, is so point on perfect that it held me spellbound, as did her character.
Some fine and overall strong support from the ensemble that includes John Rosen, Jesse Abeel, Brian Rickel and Caitie Grady, who together play no less than a dozen unusual and different characters, add the needed comic relief to what might seem like an otherwise 80 day travelogue.
But what makes this production so very special is the fact that regardless of the means of transportation it’s the imagination that rides this pony. Be it train, steamship, sledge or pirate ship, the actors, with minimal props, imitate the motions of each mode of transportation and one can almost feel the shifting of the train, the seesaw of the sledge and the rough waters of the pirate ship.
Lamb’s Around The World in 80 Days is a whimsical and capricious playful and clever romp; different and smart it all comes together with the McKeon’s effective back drops and set design. His world map stretches across the back of the stage and it follows the course of our traveling party as each destination stop is highlighted by a red dot on the map.
Fogg’s extensive library collection is prominently displayed at the top of the set and access to it are two wooden flights of stairs on wheels and tracks that the actors climb up and down with ease. (At least it looks that way) Nathan Pierson’s lighting design, Deborah Gilmour Smith’s sound design and Kevin O’Donnell’s original music is the added frosting on this cake.
“Oh! The Places You Will Go.” Relax and let the travels begin.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through November 18th
Organization: Lamb’s Players Theatre
Production Type: Adventure
Where: 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Ticket Prices: $25.00-$60.00
Davis is a San Diego-based theatre critic who may be contacted at email@example.com
Short URL: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/?p=31872