Monday, May 2, 2016

Around the World in 80 Days—Beaverton Civic Theatre—Beaverton, OR

An Adventure for the Ages
This story-telling theatre style production from the classic novel by Jules Verne has been adapted for the stage by Mark Brown and directed by Susan Giberson.  It is playing in their theatre space in the library, 12375 SW 5th St. in Beaverton through May 14th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-754-9866.

What a hoot!  This is just pure fun and very well adapted to the stage, and directed and performed in such a fashion that you get the whole gist of the story by just a few actors playing multiple characters, sparse settings and a great deal of reliance on the audience’s imagination to fill in the many blanks…which I applaud, as nowadays there is too much emphasis on the Internet and C/G effects to spell out everything for us!

What the style of this production does, is to take us back to our childhoods in which we played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, et. al. (at least, in my childhood, which was a lot simpler).  We had no fancy props or costumes for such adventures, only rubber bands, cap pistols, sticks for swords, ketchup for blood, bikes for horses, and cardboard boxes for rocket ships.  And yet we could travel anywhere in the universe and time with these few adornments.  Not only that, but by traveling into these exotic realms, we were confronting the Unknown and, by doing that, we were growing up and, perhaps, being able to deal a little more reliably with the fearsome details of adulthood.

And it all begins with something as simple as…Once Upon a Time…there lived a stuffy gentleman, Fogg (James Van Eaton), who cared only for math and science, liked everything in its place and on time, but who decided to take a dare from the Reform Club, of which he was a member, to traverse the globe in 80 days, with the bet being 20,000 pounds.  Within a whisker he’s on the next transport with his newly acquired, mousey, little French servant, Passepartout (Adam Caniparoli).

But an added snag on the trip, as the narrator (Alan Denison) relates, is that there has also been a theft at the bank at the same time Fogg is leaving the country and the description of the thief resembles Fogg.  Horrors!  This prompts Scotland Yard into immediate action and they send the fussy Detective Fix (Jeff Giberson) to tail Fogg in the hopes of getting a confession and/or the loot back.  What is probably not anticipated is the amount of territory they will travel and the odd array of transports they encounter to get them to destinations, including ships, trains, elephants, on foot and even a type of prairie schooner.

Along the route, they do encounter all sorts of unique individuals, including an adventuresome British soldier in India, Sir Francis (Greg Mansfield), who befriends them; a brash Colonel Proctor (Brad Mead) who fights Apaches alongside them; an eccentric called Mudge (Adam Kilgore), who has a contraption that sails (?) across the desert; and they even rescue a fair damsel about to be sacrificed, Auoda (Priscilla Howell).  There are many other creations by this motley crew of eight actors and they are gems.

The creation of the elephant, the battle with Indians aboard a moving train, the encounters in the opium dens, et al. are all works of extreme simplicity and pure imagination.  I have purposely been light on giving a synopsis because the fun in this show is the way it is presented.  The director, Giberson, has done an outstanding job of putting this complex production together!  And she has a cast that is exceptional as well.  Kudos to the four actors (Denison, Kilgore, Mansfield and Mead) that play the majority of the supporting characters.  It must be a nightmare backstage as they switch quickly from one costume to the next and switch gears, as well, to complement each individual character.  They are super!

And the main actors are exceptional as well.  Van Eaton is marvelously droll as all the madcap antics go on around him.  Howell is both lovely and determined as she plays a woman who knows what she wants and goes after it.  Caniparoli is a delight as the misfit manservant.  He manages to wring many of the laughs and a few sighs from the part, as his performance overflows with joy.  And, my special favorite, was Giberson, as the detective.  His characterization reminded me of something from a Monty Python skit.  His timing, expressions, gestures and voice inflections were spot on!  I believe he is a talent to be reckoned with onstage and hope that he continues in this field.

I highly recommend this show (in case you haven’t figured that out already).  It is a mischievous, merry, madcap adventure of untold delights!  One final note to parents, give space and time for your child to play using their imaginations—it is an important tool to who they will become as adults.  And don’t forget to read bedtime stories to them, as they, too, are important fodder to feed the mind.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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