Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Charley's Aunt - Taproot Theatre Company

Charley's Aunt

Taproot Theatre Company

May 12 - June 12, 2010

Tickets and Information

Steve West, Eric Riedmann, Nolan Palmer and Anne Kenned. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

It’s an age old story. Two boys try to get girls. Girls won’t meet boys without a chaperone. One boy’s aunt, who is to chaperone, cancels at the last minute. Third boy happens to be playing an old woman in some amateur theatricals, puts on his costume, and assumes the role of chaperone. Hilarity ensues.

Well, it’s an age old story in British farce, anyway. Charley’s Aunt, by Brandon Thomas, debuted in 1892 and has been produced countless times since then, including its original London run of more than 1,400 performances. This incarnation, produced by Greenwood’s Taproot Theatre Company, is directed by TTC Associate Artistic Director Karen Lund. She writes in her director’s notes that “[Taproot] chose this play because we wanted to give you an evening of lighthearted fun and full-throttle laughs”. There is no doubt that they succeed in that goal. Despite clocking in at 2 ½ hours including two intermissions, the evening doesn’t feel long, and you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face.

This production of Charley’s Aunt is dominated by two women: first, the director Lund, and later, actress Llysa Holland. Lund knows her way around a farce, and the first half of the show is carried by her crisp and energetic staging. The show’s leads are young, and as of opening night were still finding the rhythm of the show with the added element of riotous laughter. But Lund has given them all the tools, and after a few performances they should look like old pros. Speaking of pros, the show reaches a turning point when Llysa Holland, playing Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, arrives midway through the second act. She sweeps in, takes charge of the show, and guides the cast through to the hilarious finale. Although her character is not necessarily the star of the show, Holland gives by far the outstanding performance of the evening.

The rest of the cast are all capable in their roles, and the obvious fun they are having adds to the audience’s enjoyment of the evening. The designs are also solid, though a period play like this unfortunately does not offer much in the way of boundless creativity for designers. All turned in quality designs that do not detract from the language and the action, which should be and are the stars of this farce. The only difficulty posed to a designer is the complicated set that farce generally requires. Mark Lund, Taproot’s residentscenic designer, is very adept at using Taproot’s unique thrust stage to serve a wide variety of shows, and Charley’s Aunt is no exception.

Plays do not generally last more than a hundred years if they aren’t that good. Taproot’s production of Charley’s Aunt shows why the show is still alive and kicking all these years later. There are not a lot of comedies playing on Seattle stages right now, so for an “evening of lighthearted fun and full-throttle laughs,” you can do no better than Charley’s Aunt at Taproot Theatre Company.

Review by Patrick Lennon

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