Ben Turpin, Red Skelton, and John Belushi: Jack Fallon is channeling all three in this fresh adaptation of Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” by Mark Brown, now in a wacky production at Curtain Call Theatre.
Many will remember the 1956 Oscar-winning movie, starring David Niven, (and the 2004 version, with Jackie Chan) and wonder how five performers on a nearly bare stage could pull off such a spectacle.
‘Around the World in 80 Days’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Rd., Latham
WHEN: through May 10
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: 877-7529
But when the performers are as adept as this quintet, and when the music and the lighting convincingly conjure up one exotic locale after another — well, the mind’s eye sees it all, including the elephant.
Brown has fun with the story of staid Phileas Fogg (Steven Leifer), who bets three associates at the Reform Club of London that he can circle the globe in 80 days. This is, mind you, 1872. He heads east, accompanied by his new French manservant, the appropriately named Passepartout (Carter Harris), and pursued by Detective Fix (Joe Russo), who thinks Fogg is a thief. Of course, they all have numerous adventures with rather stereotypical characters during their globe-trotting, and it’s up to the protean Fallon and Russo to flesh them out in an instant. They do, to great comic effect.
Obstacles present themselves — the typhoon scene is especially well done — but Fogg is unflappable: this punctual man has calculated his arrivals and departures to the minute. Egypt, India (where he meets Aouda, played by Monica Cangero), Hong Kong, and Yokohama are featured in the first act, and Act II hilariously chronicles Fogg and company’s travels across the United States.
Casey Cieszynski, William E. Fritz, and Joanna Palladino have managed props, lighting, and sound, respectively, very well. If there’s any criticism, it’s the look of the set, which is cleverly designed and sturdy, but unpolished.
The performers, however, have been polished to a fare-thee-well by resident director Steve Fletcher. Whether negotiating an accent, changing clothes quickly, or popping their heads in and out of windows, they play at top speed. Cangero successfully adds a third dimension to Aouda throughout, so the proposal scene is touching. Harris’s Passepartout fusses and fumes Gallically, but he is, at heart, a dear. An auspicious CC debut.
Russo scores with Monty Python nuttiness, which his multiple roles call for. Leifer’s rich voice is one you’d walk a mile to hear, and he matches his fine line readings with a physical restraint that holds the center of the play, as it must, when everyone else is excitable.
Finally, Fallon. Mug meister! Sunday’s audience couldn’t wait to see how this old pro would spin his next character. Part of the fun was watching him have fun performing, and this is the kind of whimsical show that allows for just such a double lens. Fallon never failed to deliver.
Verne had a great imagination. I hope he had a sense of humor, too.