Charlie’s Aunt proves a must-see

The Saddleback College Studio Theatre, located in FA 308 will be featuring Charley’s Aunt through October 19th.

The original play, written by Brandon Thomas (1850-1914), was first performed in London, 1892. Through the following years it broke all historic records for plays of any kind, with a run of 1,466 performances. In a style that presages the humor of the great P.G. Wodehouse, the play gently mocked the conventions and absurdities of the English upper class with unerring accuracy. This production, directed by theater instructor Patrick J. Fennell, continues that standard of excellence.

Jack Chesney (played by Barry Keene) and Charley Wyckham (Tyler “Butter” Christman) convince fellow student Lord Fancourt Babberley (Chet C. Wilson) to pose as Charley’s ridiculously rich aunt Donna Lucia for a day when the real aunt fails to show, thus depriving the boys of a respectable chaperone for their romantic assignations with Amy (Morgan Zupanski) and Kitty (Laura Bremer). Complications arise when Stephen Spettigue (Bob Faw), uncle of Amy and guardian of Kitty, falls for the ersatz Aunt Lucia. Nor is Spettigue the only suitor as Jack’s father, Sir Francis Chesney (Joe Lehr) is also seduced by the “lady’s” charms. The stakes become even higher and the comedy takes ever more raucous swings as the real Donna Lucia (Ginger Griffin) arrives and, when apprised of her nephew’s predicament, assumes a false identity of her own.

This is classic comedy about love and identity confusion at its best. The rapidity of the comedic elements actually allows the actors to gradually develop their characters in a deeper, more measured fashion. The script is brilliant and the actors are hilarious. Wilson makes a fabulous cross-dresser and Brasset, the hunched over man-maid played by Matthew Fauls, is a perfect foil in his supporting role.

This is a very physical play, with numerous instances of pushing, falling, and rolling between the young male actors.

The theater is rather small, so it can be disconcerting to see characters tussling only inches from ones own feet, but the intimacy achieved by staging this production actually has the effect of making the audience a full, if passive member of the cast.

The sets are beautiful, and since the actors are also the stage crew, even the set changes add to the overall charm of the production. The costumes are both accurate to the period and stylishly done.

Overall, this is a production that leaves nothing wanting. It is a must-see, well worth its length of over two hours.