Monday, May 7, 2012

"Charley's Aunt" Now Showing-Laugh Your P-Aunts Off At The James F. Dean Theatre In Summerville

It was to be the night of the "supermoon". It is a celestial event called a perigee in astronomical terms. It was extensively publicized on the internet at the start of the day and highly anticipated by many. It happens once a year and occurs when the moon is at its closest point to our celestial home during its yearly orbital trek through space. If you are a Facebook follower, and who isn't these days, you would have seen a multitude of posts throughout the day making reference to its coming. Plans were made to take advantage of the best vantage points for observation and cameras were readied.

As the "supermoon" moved through the skies above us, another highly publicized and anticipated event was unfolding in Summerville. The overhead lights in the James F. Dean Theatre were dimmed and the Flowertown Player's stars of "Charley's Aunt" stepped out of the darkness unto the stage. The resolve of their hard work and sacrifice would now be put to the test. "Charley's Aunt" was billed as a comedy of the classic type.
Matthias Burrell

Classic by definition means top quality with lasting value, timeless, ageless. "Charley's Aunt", released in 1892, was a highly successful play in its debut and set the standard for its genre, comedy. The storyline is timeless and ageless in that what was found to be humorous in its early days is still found to be humorous today. It set records for longevity and was a Broadway success in 1893. A classic, it is without a doubt. To live up to the billing as a comedy, laughter would have to be heard in the theater.

When the stage lights came on, Jack Chesney (John Black) was sitting at a desk agonizing over the proper words he should use in preparation of writing a letter to his sweetheart. Moments later, Charles Wykeham (David Whittington) entered on the scene plagued with the same indisposition. From those initial moments you could tell the two actors had the right chemistry for a successful pairing as friends with a common objective, winning the hand of their sweethearts. How they would achieve that objective is where the story begins and Charley's Aunt was a pivotal piece in the ultimate success of their scheme. John Black and David Whittington kind of reminded me of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, a one time successful comedic pairing, or more recently Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn of "Wedding Crashers" fame.

The butler, Brassett (Jerry Squires) was summoned to deliver the letter. (If you are ever in need of a butler, Jerry would be a good choice. His butler-like mannerisms and inflection were "spot on.") With the letter sent, it looks as though the plan was proceeding smoothly. Jack and Charley leave the scene, at which time Lord Fancourt Babberley (Matthias Burrell), affectionately known as Babbs, enters looking for some champagne to borrow and then attempts to sneak off with it. He is intercepted by Jack and Charley. In the course of their interaction Babbs informs them he will be in a play where he dresses as a woman. He wants to try the dress on and get their opinion on how it looks.
John Black, Matthias Burrell, and David Whittington

While Babbs is getting ready, Jack and Charley find out Charley's aunt would not be arriving as scheduled, which throws them into a tizzy because she was to be their chaperon. Kitty Verdun (Alexa-Marie Acuna) and Amy Spettigue (Lindsey Murray) arrive and find out Charley's aunt is not there yet and tell the boys they will leave to go shopping and come back later. Meanwhile Babbs, in the other room, had put on his wardrobe and summoned Jack to take a look. When Jack saw Babbs the scheme took a new, diabolical course. Babbs stepped out in a black dress and blonde wig. He is coerced into substituting for Charley's aunt.

From that moment on the laughs began. Things got even more complicated when Jack's father, Colonel Sir Francis Chesney (Barry Gordon), visits him unexpectedly with disturbing news and then later, Amy's uncle, Stephen Spettigue (Ken Malcom), appears on the scene. To make matters even worse, the real Charley's aunt (Stephanie Crowley) shows up accompanied by Ela Delahay (Erin Gentry), an orphaned young girl. The aunt's name was Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez. Now, that is a mouthful. Try saying it five times fast without messing it up.
Ken Malcom, Jerry Squires, Stephanie Crowley
Alexa-Marie Acuna, John Black, Matthias Burrell
 David Whittington, Barry Gordon, Lindsay Murray
Erin Gentry

Matthias Burrell brought the laughs with his characterization of a man wearing a sloppy blonde wig, dressed as a woman from Brazil, where the nuts come from. The scary part, he looked alot like the bratty girl from "Little House on the Prairie", only older. I have to say, at times the very shrilly voice grated on your nerves, but it no doubt was all part of the act.

The director, Jamie Gresens, did a good job bringing it all together. The timing and flow of the character's movements on stage were coordinated well. The lines were delivered near flawlessly by the actors. Sean Lakey, set designer, did an excellent job with the visual aspects pertaining to backdrops and props. You will have to follow this one closely to keep up with all the twists and pay attention to the punch lines. If you do that, you will find "Charley's Aunt" very entertaining and worth a night out at the James F. Dean Theatre for laughs. Buy tickets.

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