Mad River Union
BLUE LAKE – Around the World in 80 Days is simply the best holiday show from Dell’Arte in years. I’ve had the fun of seeing 10 or 111 of their holiday shows out of the 38 (yes 38! Time flies when you are having fun.) shows that they’ve done. Around the World in 80 Days is so close to perfection that it’s difficult to write a review. I’ll just settle for writing a love letter to the cast and producing company.
Dell’Arte has taken the complicated journey that Phileas Fogg and his French valet, Passepartout, attempt to win the bet that the world cannot be circumnavigated in 80 days, a journey that involves trains, ships, elephants, a wind sledge, horses and an aerial balloon, and made it a human powered journey on stage.
It’s a tour de force in more ways than one in that all those means of transport are acted by actors. Early in the play the actors become a train, complete with sound effects and physical movement. They are the train and it is a delight.
Get ready, because the talented and inventive ensemble (Idit Kischinovsky, Alfredo Romero, Melanie Schauwecker, and Evan Grande) will embody each successive mode of travel, including the elephant. That’s a marvelous achievement and the physicality and use of the entire stage keeps the play at a high pitch of excitement.
That’s not to leave out the charm and skills of the named characters. Jordan Rosin is incandescent as Phileas Fogg, the Englishman who is the main character in the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days (1873). He’s witty and suave by turns, unflappable in difficulties, the quintessential Englishman. His valet, Passepartout, is hilarious. Jesse March manages the comedic French accent with style and irony, while making cups (and saucers) of tea appear in the most unlikely circumstances. He’s acrobatic, supple and can put the moves on Ms. Fix with ease.
Fix, played by Kathryn Cesarz, is a great piece of casting. In the novel, Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard is sent to arrest Fogg in a case of mistaken identity. Transforming the character into a feminine one works for this play. The interplay between the valet and Fix adds to the fun. Cesarz is a dream of movement onstage, swooning and swooping and sneaking around. She tells us she’s got “the longest legs in England” and she puts them to work. Cleo DeOrio rounds out the cast with her sassy, classy characterization of the lost girl, Aouda.
And the animals! Monkeys, tigers, a giant snake, and, of course, that elephant are all a combination of physical comedy, great props, beautiful lighting, and inventive costumes, but most of all, belief. We believe in these animals, even when they are just sound effects. That’s the magic of Dell’Arte.
This is a great present to the grownups and children of our community. The show travels to various locations through Dec. 16. Admission is a donated food item. Don’t miss it! Check locations at dellarte.com or call (707) 668-5663