By Christina Perryman
Hedgerow Theatre’s cast has set sail around the world and audiences can settle in for a high tide of laughs during the company’s current staging of Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days.” The show was nicely adapted by Mark Brown and excellently directed by Damon Bonetti.
London gentleman Phileas Fogg lives by mathematics. Everything in his life is precise and predictable, from his daily schedule to the temperature of his tea. Therefore, when three fellow gentlemen at the club challenge the notion that a person can travel around the world in merely 80 days, Fogg sets out to prove the theory correct. The men make a wager of 20,000 lbs. and with carpetbag in hand, Fogg and his newly hired servant, a Frenchman named Passepartout, begin their adventure. As they travel through Asia, Indian and the United States, Fogg and Passepartout meet a wide variety of obstacles and characters, most notably Aouda, a woman they save from death, and Detective Fix, a detective determined to arrest Fogg for a bank robbery that occurred right before Fogg left town.
The adventure is full of funny antics and dialog with many memorable characters. Hedgerow’s small cast is more than up to the challenge of providing laughs and high energy action. Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed leads the charge as Phileas Fogg. With so many outrageous, hilarious personalities in the show, Reed provides a refreshing, perfect straight man. Reed’s Fogg remains stoic in the face of danger and impossible circumstances and stays level headed while others are falling apart. He interacts well with Sarah Knittel (Passepartout) and Hanna Gaffney (Aouda) especially. Knittel deftly navigates the eccentricities of Passepartout. She is very funny, both with physical comedy and expressive facial expressions, and has palpable energy. Gaffney is terrific as Aouda, as well as various other characters. Gaffney has a commanding stage presence and natural grace.
Mark Swift, who plays Detective Fix, is one of my favorites. Swift, like Knittel, seems to have boundless energy. He is not afraid to take risks and his facial expressions and body language are hilarious. I particularly enjoyed the scenes Swift and Knittel share. They seem to feed off each other with very comical results. Zoran Kovcic, aptly listed as “Everybody Else” in the program, does a lot of heavy lifting, quickly switching from character to character as the situation dictates. Often, Kovcic successfully plays several characters in the same scene with quick changes to not only his costume, but his mannerisms and accents as well.
The set, cleverly designed by Shaun Yates, included a large map of the world with many compartments well utilized throughout the show. Costume Designer Janus Stefanowicz chose wisely. Passepartout’s costume was as vivid as the servant’s personality, Reed looked dapper in Fogg’s suit and the gowns chosen for Aouda were beautiful. Sound and lighting, by Aaron J. Oster and James Lewis, respectively, was well done, particularly during the typhoon.
“Around the World in 80 Days” is a mostly lighthearted show with something for everyone to enjoy. And what better way to spend a hot summer night than in laughter?
“Around the World in 80 Days” runs at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, through Aug. 13. Show times are 7:30 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and $20 for students and those under age 30. For tickets or information, call 610-565-4211 or visit http://hedgerowtheatre.org/.