By: David Sheward ***
Economics are forcing commercial Off-Broadway runs into near extinction. These days you need a gimmick like percussion (Stomp!), New Age hijinks (Blue Man Group), acrobatics (Fuerza Bruta), or parody (satires of Fifty Shades of Gray, Harry Potter, etc.) to sustain a show in New York’s smaller theaters. So you have to admire the producers of Around the World in 80 Days, a slick adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic 1872 adventure novel, for their pluck. Previously presented in a limited engagement at the Irish Repertory Theater in 2008, this stage version by Mark Brown shrinks Phileas Fogg’s epic attempt to girdle the globe and win a £20,000 bet into two and a half hours. The entire planet is contained in one set, and five actors play 39 characters.
Director Rachel Klein has given the proceedings a more circus-like atmosphere than that of the Irish Rep staging, with broader acting and clown-like costumes by Klein and Kae Burke. Some of the edge and wit of that previous ed
ition is missing. Nevertheless, it’s a fun and fast-paced evening. Scenic designer Robert Andrew Kovach has created a Victorian funhouse extending into the small theater, the walls painted to resemble period scenes of exotic locations and bizarre modes of transportation. A huge clock suspended upstage left becomes a screen for projected images created by Kate Freer to accompany the story.
With a few simple props, the action shifts from Fogg’s stuffy club to the wilds of India to the snowbound Wild West. Josh Segarra makes for a properly poised Fogg; John Gregorio is a riotous Passepartout, Fogg’s enthusiastic French manservant; Vanessa Morosco (understudy for Shirine Rabb at the performance attended) is an attractive Aouda, the Indian princess the duo rescues; and Jimmy Ray Bennett and Stephen Guarino display versatility in multiple roles.
August 14, 2013
Around The World In 80 Days Opened May 30 for an open run. New Theater at 45th Street, 354 W. 45th St., NYC. Tue-Wed 7pm, Thu-Fri 8pm, Sat 2:30pm & 8pm, Sun 2:30pm & 7pm. Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes including intermission. $32-64. (212) 239-6200.
Photos Michael Blase & Carol Rosegg
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