Saturday, October 24, 2015

Travels with My Aunt **

Keen Company is currently presenting Giles Havergal’s clever stage adaptation of Graham Greene’s light 1969 novel about Henry Pulling, an uptight, recently retired suburban banker and his freewheeling Aunt Augusta. They meet after a gap of 50-years at the funeral of Henry’s mother, who, his aunt soon informs him, was not really his mother. Augusta soon embroils Henry in her complicated amoral life and takes him along on a trip across Europe. The present man in Augusta’s life is Wordsworth, a Sierra Leonean who is absolutely devoted to her. Augusta is determined to rescue an ex-lover Mr. Visconti, a former Nazi collaborator who, despite taking all her money, still holds her in his thrall. The gimmick on which Havergal’s adaptation is based is that four hard-working actors (Thomas Jay Ryan, Jay Russell, Dan Jenkins and Rory Kulz), identically dressed in three-piece suits and bowlers, play the 20+ roles. The role of Henry is divided among the four of them. Ryan has only one additional role, the important one of Aunt Augusta, while the others all have multiple roles. Russell’s roles range from Tooley, a college girl to O’Toole, a CIA man who just happens to be her father. Jenkins appears as both Wordsworth and Visconti. Kulz has small roles, most memorably that of a wolfhound. When the second act takes us to Paraguay, the actors change to white suits and straw hats. It’s clever, but the trick grows tiresome before long. You can figure out the ending at least an hour in advance. I found the material too thin to hold my interest for over two hours. Apparently, Havergal has approved a 50-minute one-act version which sounds about right to me. Steven C. Kemp’s set shouts “low budget,” but it gets the job done. Jennifer Paar’s matching costumes are delightful. The direction by Keen artistic director Jonathan Silverstein is competent. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission.

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