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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Around the World in 80 Days

Also see Susan's review of American Buffalo

Around the World in 80 Days
Tuyet Thi Pham and Mitchell Hébert
Playwright Mark Brown had a clever idea in trying to adapt Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" into a zany five-performer extravaganza. Unfortunately, it's too often frantic rather than funny and it drags at times, judging from the current production at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland.

The fault is not with director Nick Olcott, who has done a lot of strong work over the years, nor with the actors, who remain recognizable no matter what absurd disguises they wear. It's just that Verne's picaresque story—with its exotic images of Suez, Calcutta, Hong Kong, and frontier San Francisco—resists being boiled down to a single multi-purpose set. (Misha Kachman's scenic design is good for a few chuckles on its own, seeing as it incorporates a ship's paddlewheel with what appears to be a lance protruding from it, lighted portholes suggesting a submarine, an illuminated image of the unflappable Queen Victoria, and wallpaper made from a map of the world, all bordered by a circular rotating walkway.)

Mitchell Hébert is an engaging presence as Phileas Fogg, the hidebound London gentleman who decides to wager that he can, indeed, travel around the globe in the specified period of time, assisted by his valet Passepartout (Sasha Olinick). Tuyet Thi Pham primarily shines as Aouda, the young Indian widow Fogg rescues from her husband's (offstage) funeral pyre, while Ethan Bowen and James Konicek join Olinick in playing numerous roles. They wear silly beards as the stodgy members of Fogg's London club, throw handfuls of stage "snow" (soap flakes?) to denote a storm, and provide their own sound effects, including one stolen from Monty Python.

The play is structured as a vaudeville show, down to the signs at either side of the stage. When Passepartout accidentally disturbs the sanctity of a temple in India, the monks attack him in exaggerated martial-arts style, and people use stylized forms of walking to get from one destination to the next.

Round House Theatre
Around the World in 80 Days
May 5th 30th
By Mark Brown, from the novel by Jules Verne
Actor 1: James Konicek
Actor 2: Ethan Bowen
Actor 3: Sasha Olinick
Actor 4: Tuyet Thi Pham
Actor 5/Phileas Fogg: Mitchell Hébert
Directed by Nick Olcott
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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