More than ten roles are played…no, brought to life…by only four actors and they take us on a dizzying, fun journey from Brighton, England to Istanbul and beyond, even giving us a joyful ride on the Orient Express.
Bank clerk Henry Pulling has retired to his country home in the English countryside there to live out the rest of his unspeakably dull life tending his dahlias and agonizing over whether or not to fully engage in a relationship with Evelyn, the only woman he’s even come close to loving. Unhappy but resigned to living life in shades of tan, Henry is abruptly thrust into the insane world of his Aunt Augusta, younger sister of his recently deceased mother. Augusta takes Henry on an adventure the likes of which are not readily described here, but time spent with Augusta and company changes Henry’s life and perspective like a burst of sun on a foggy day.
The intimate theatre in the round type setting puts the audience literally inside the action and the skill of the actors lies not only in their mastery of the dialogue, accents, and timing but also in the blocking which they execute with the precision of circus performers.
The set is comprised of only four trunks, four suitcases and various small props, wigs, and hats which the actors utilize to represent everything from a taxi to the Orient Express. To say this play is innovative without being self-conscious is an understatement.
Our four actors are never off stage until intermission, a feat of acting strength that defies description. They are seldom even still, constantly moving and morphing from one character at dizzying speed.
Paul Cereghino is the actor most charged with bringing Aunt Augusta to life and he is equal to the challenge. A little bit Rosalind Russel, a little bit Katharine Hepburn, Cereghino has only a red wig to aid in his transformation, but that seems to be all he needs. He is entirely believable in my estimation and although Aunt Augusta is a wild and flamboyant character, his interpretation is of a woman being so, not a man imitating a woman.
Michael Juncal proved to be the most adept at accents, moving from Jamaican to English to Italian and back, but his most beautiful character was devoted Wordsworth, who shows Henry what real love looks like. He is crushed when Augusta chooses another and merely the look on his face gave me a lump in my throat.
Jake Ferree has a tour de farce as a pot smoking teen, a Russian Wolfhound, and a delightfully spot on impression of Christopher Walken as the maybe CIA Agent, O’Toole. It took me a second to catch on to that familiar voice and those twitchy gestures, but once I got it I had to restrain myself from cheering. He was amazing.
Jonathon Morgan rounds out the four man ensemble, taking his turns at being Henry and several other characters including the elusive Mr. Visconti, Aunt Augusta’s only true love. Mr. Morgan certainly held his own in this cast of talented, handsome men.
Director Emily Jones has brought us a tightly wound, superbly executed piece of theatre worthy of high praise. The blocking alone must have been a nightmare and to her I say, Brava!