‘Around the World in 80 Days’ Offers a One-Way Ticket to Imagination
By Melissa Gordon
The International City Theater commemorates its 28th season with Around the World in 80 Days, a show that succeeds in taking audiences to a whimsical place of comedic self-discovery. With a stunning five-person cast, as well as its unique use of props, improvisation, and special effects, this adaptation of the classic novel by French author Jules Verne guarantees a fun time.
It is 1872—a time of industrialization and nationalism. The railroads and seaport systems are expanding rapidly, opening doors to foreign lands. Phileas Fogg, a man that is usually known for his dependence on a monotonous routine, casts aside his predictability when he embarks on a journey to visit seven continents in 80 days. The incentive: a bet of 20,000 pounds, otherwise known as his life’s fortune. Without considering the dangers and impossibilities of the proposal, he sets out to explore exotic destinations with his quirky French valet, Jean Passepartout. Meanwhile, Phileas and crew are followed and sabotaged by Detective Fix, who naively believes that Phileas is a bank robber on the run. These characters enter a whirlwind of dangerous obstacles that result in comedic surprises, guaranteeing to either destroy them or otherwise teach them about where they truly belong in this vast world.
Alison Bibicoff, a seasoned choreographer and director based in Los Angeles, makes her ICT directorial debut with this ambitious show. Adapted for the stage by Mark Brown, this play takes on a variety of complicated entertainment methods, including the preset five-man cast. The versatility of the actors is what really drives this show home; five actors playing 39 roles? Yes, you read that correctly. Performers Mark Gagliardi, Melinda Porto, Brian Stanton, Michael Uribes, and Jud V. Williford shift from character to character with ease. Within a twenty-minute span, one actor can portray an Asian elephant rider, a British diplomat, an Irish sailor, and more.
In addition, the characters are able to travel to different locales with just minimal set changes. At one point, the characters demonstrate being on a runaway train with nothing but physical gestures and strobe lights. In another scene, a small paper temple casts a shadow that becomes the temple in Bombay. Another highlight is when the characters pull down a gray tarp and begin to ride what it symbolizes: a full-grown elephant. The audience believes it because the performers believe it. This is where the magic lies.
Is ‘Around the World’ a show that attempts to change the lives of its audience? No, certainly not. This show is not deep, nor does it contain any heavy messages that will leave the viewer stunned, but then again…was it ever trying to? The show uses a small amount of tools available to demonstrate a fun time that is oftentimes borderline childish. If you don’t feel as if you have the stomach to see grown actors acting like kids on the stage, then you’ll most likely want to skip this one.
On that note, young-at-heart adults can consider bringing the kids. This show is suitable for all audiences, but it has elements that make it compatible as a family show. Many of the special effects require sensitivity to fantasy, and the comedy is oftentimes physical and slapstick; many of the comedic techniques used are reminiscent of old cartoons, which both adults and children can appreciate. Nevertheless, there are subtle jokes about drug use for the adults, and a certain world pertaining to a bodily function hops up twice (starts with a “p”). Despite that, this show offers nothing more risqué than those older Looney Tunes cartoons we used to watch as kids.
Around the World in 80 Days demonstrates how theatre is possible no matter the limitations. The dedication of the performers and crew, as well as its ability to tap into the inner child within all of us, is what makes this show an enjoyable time.
Get ready, get set for this magical journey across the globe. Visit the International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center to see Around the World in 80 Days, showing now between January 25th and February 17th.
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Around the World in 80 Days
January 23 – February 17, 2013
Thu. – Sat. at 8pm; Sun. at 2pm
Thursdays: $38; Fri., Sat., Sun.: $45
ICT at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center
300 East Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90802
Box Office: 562-436-4610