Around the World in 80 Days
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Around the World in 80 Days plot synopsis:
A 19th-century English gentleman attempts to win a wager by circling the globe in record time.
Around the World in 80 Days theater review:
All the world may be a stage, but how do you make a stage all the world? This is the primary challenge of mounting Jules Verne’s far-flung 1873 adventure tale, Around the World in 80 Days, in a theater. The restless plot follows an exacting London gentleman named Phileas Fogg—determined to win a £20,000 bet—on a journey over land and sea, traversing four continents and three oceans and attacks from two kinds of Indians. Mark Brown’s 2001 adaptation cleverly reduces the scale of the story: It is written to be performed on a minuscule budget, by a cast of just five (in multiple roles). Reviewing a 2008 production at the Irish Rep, I praised it for “circumnavigating the perils of literalism.”
The play's diverting current revival occasionally stalls on literalism’s rocks. The once-shabby New Theater at 45th Street has been freshly appointed with expensive lights, sound and digital projections, and Robert Andrew Kovach’s multitiered steampunk set looks marvelous. Despite lovely touches in Rachel Klein’s staging, however, Around the World’s imaginative lightness sometimes seems cramped in a gilded cage, with surround-sound effects that threaten to drown out the dialogue. Ultimately, the show is at its best when the actors simply have space to stretch their broad comedy. Bryce Ryness, stiff and rouged to the hilt, seems an awkward fit for the leading role, but Jimmy Ray Bennett, Stephen Guarino and John Gregorio—erstwhile costars of the improv musical The Nuclear Family—find many moments to pop, with Bennett painting his 16 parts in especially amusing shades of camp. As with Fogg's trip itself, the pleasure here is less in the money than in the timing.—Review by Adam Feldman
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam
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