“Seaside play provides whirlwind ride around the world”
That’s just what the professional crew at the Seaside Repertory Theatre manage in the current production of “Around the World in 80 Days,” which ends its run this weekend.
Five actors use whirlwind timing, distinctive character voices and unique body language to help the audience differentiate between the three baker’s-dozen characters. Costume changes are lightning quick, as an actor might exit stage left and return moments later through a doorway stage right in a different outfit (or stripped to the waist, as the case might be).
Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; concessions include beer and wine sales. Thursday’s performance is “family night,” during which one child (under 18) is admitted for free with every paid adult ticket.
The Rep’s artistic director, Brook Stetler, takes the starring role of Phileas Fogg, the gentleman adventurer who doesn’t realize his life is as the straight man in a slapstick comedy. Fogg is deadly serious as all about him degenerates into vaudeville. It’s the perfect balance.
Scott Gibbs, who plays (among other characters) the wacky Detective Fix, said it’s not that difficult to avoid using the wrong voice for the wrong character.
“You have to find where the voice comes from,” he said, indicating areas of his torso with one hand. He hunched forward and made little claws of his fingers as his face pinched up, and he said, “The detective is more like this, talking from his face, while the elephant keeper,” and then he let his shoulders drop backward, his belly distend, his face flatten and he began speaking with an Indian accent, “he speaks from way down here.”
(Anne Marie Carroll, who portrays the loyal manservant Passepartout, joked that the toughest thing about the play was having to shave her moustache after every show.)
Seaside Repertory Theatre is not “community theater” in the sense of a volunteer company; it’s professional theater, featuring actors from across the country who are hired for the season. The REP, as it’s known, is committed to a long-range mission of building itself into a world-class regional theater company, according to materials provided by the troupe.
Founded in 2001, the REP entertains more than 25,000 people annually via its 75-seat indoor stage, performances in the outdoor amphitheater at Seaside, and performances in other communities in the region.