Guilty pleasure Charley's Aunt oddly filling

Nov. 15, 2002, midnight | By Josh Gottlieb-Miller | 21 years, 8 months ago

Propelled by Lord Fancourt Babberly (junior Ben Austin-Docampo) and his show stealing cross-dressing shenanigans, Brandon Thomas' classic Charley's Aunt maintains its light humor throughout the night. The light show may not be very filling, but like the best tasty treats you'll only notice the pleasantly empty calories before they go to your thighs.

The Montgomery Blair Players are all suprisingly amusing, capably handling each of their roles with aplomb. There's not a weak performer in Charley's Aunt, which focuses on two bachelors' attempt to secure the women of their dreams in marriage. In the process, they force their friend and confidante Babberly to impersonate an old lady: Charley's aunt.

The show is funny and smooth despite being encumbered by the stale dialogue and unlikely coincidences typical of Victorian comedies. Also, though dragging at times, Charley's Aunt maintains the steady pace perfect for this simple comedy.

While the stage direction is good the technical work is excellent. The cast was aided by extravagant sets partly donated from the Kennedy Center that perfectly capture the barely upper-class families' personalities. Furthermore, lighting design (senior Zack Tinkelman), sound design (junior Jesse Galef), and stage crew all contributed to the well-managed and efficient atmosphere.

The skilled production values allow Charley's Aunt to start off with a bang; as two dynamic friends, Jack Chesney (sophomore Eric Glover) and Charley Wykeham (sophomore Ely Portillo) prepare to woo two respectable young ladies. Expecting Wykeham's aunt to arrive that day they invite the girls over, only to have their aunt unexpectedly cancel her appointment with them. Babberly pretends to be Wykeham's aunt as a chaperone is necessary, and of course hilarity ensues. Men vie for the "aunt's" affections, the girls take "her" into their confidence, and events only become more complicated when Wykeham's real aunt becomes involved.

Director Kelly Newman keeps the action coming as Babberly is compromised by the arrival of his own love interest while he is still stuck playing an old lady. However, all's well that ends well in this light production, and happy endings are easily expected for all of the couples, even the real aunt: Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez (junior Katie Aboudou). Aboudou is capable and stately while her ward Ela Delahay (junior Lindsay Hocker) is beautifully innocent, calmly slowing down the show's hectic pace and announcing the arrival of the romantic part of the evening. Each are dressed in vibrantly excellent costumes while the men are also easily presentable in their smooth suits. Fortunately, the couples maintain enough chemistry to make the final twists enjoyable if not believable.

The rest of the cast is also memorable, especially the love interests Amy Spettigue (junior Piper Hanson, Wykeham's) and Kitty Verdun (junior Cynthia LeFevre, Chesney's). Though the Victorian comedy allows them little room for character development they each remain elegant and worthy of the men's affections. Brassett (senior Annie Peirce), Sir Francis Chesney (sophomore John Visclosky), and Stephen Spettigue (junior Brian Koss) round out the cast; nailing their characters and lines. Koss and others do overuse the word "deuce" however; the fault of the play's turn of the (last) century slang.

The cast overcame several minor obstacles, including Austin's forgetting a consequential letter (an error ignored by the cast) and original cast member Welch Canavan's absence. Koss does a good job stepping in for Canavan as the play's closest thing to a villain, annoying Babberly mercilessly. This dynamic provides one of Charley's Aunt'smany funny sequences, as Koss chases the shifty Babberly, intent on securing "her" love (and money). Charley's Aunt was clearly a success, receiving three standing ovations (one for Austin), and entertaining a near packed house (a surprise for a weeknight showing).

Charley's Aunt will be showing tonight and Saturday (11/15 and 11/16) 7:30 at Montgomery Blair High School.
Tickets are available at the show ($4 for students, $6 for adults).

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