Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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Around the World in 80 Days

2009 November 3
Photo: Cristopher P. Kettrey

Photo: Cristopher P. Kettrey

There are a few surprises in Theatrical Outfit’s “Around the World in 80 Days.”

The play, whose script is different than that of the movie, holds your attention with a story that constantly moves forward.

If you’re expecting to see what you saw in the movie version where David Niven travels the world in a hot-air balloon, forget it. There’s no balloon in the play. There’s no balloon in the original book by Jules Verne either.

Mark Brown, who adapted the play from Verne’s novel, seems to draw upon the Marx Brothers for added humor. He has characters speaking silly asides to the audience, à la Groucho, and three priests tipping over a man to steal the shoes off his feet, à la Groucho, Chico and Harpo.

The year is 1872.  Just after a bank has been robbed Phileas Fogg (Tom Key) sits at a card game in London, waging 20,000 pounds–an inordinate amount of money–that he can travel around the world in 80 days.

Fogg leaves hastily with his new servant, Monsieur Passepartout (Paul Hester), to travel around the world. Detective Fix (Bill Murphey), however, hears that descriptions of the bank robber look uncannily like Fogg. Fix tails Fogg and Passepartout as they travel around the world switching from trains to steamboats to sailboat.

During their journey, Fogg and Passepartout meet a bevy of unusual and memorable characters and save the life of an Indian woman, Miss Aouda (Kate Donadio), just as she is about to be burned on a pyre. On their journey, the two travelers battle American Indians and come close to a shooting match with cowboy Col. Proctor (James Donadio, father of Kate), and miss their trains or boats because of a number of mishaps.

The acting in the show is about as fine as it gets in Atlanta. Although there are some silly characters in the play, the actors play the characters in a truthful and believable manner and don’t get caught up in trying to be funny. Although Passepartout needs more work on his French accent–a lot more work–at least his acting is truthful.

The set is commendable. Maclare “MC” Park uses platform and bellhop carts to create sailboats, steamboats and trains. A cane becomes the trunk of an elephant, straw fans become its ears, a cart and people on it magically look like an elephant that people ride. With just a few charts, carts, maps, a table and chairs, Park creates visions from around the world.

If you see this production, you’ll laugh along the way, maybe draw a tear at the end, and likely enjoy the ride.

“Around the World in 80 Days” runs at Theatrical Outfit through this Sunday, Nov. 8

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