Review: Public Theater's production is a fast-paced journey
Contrary to the Cunard Line's oft-quoted slogan, getting there is more than half the fun of Pittsburgh Public Theater's "Around the World in 80 Days."
Like its hero, Phileas Fogg, this production travels with a minimum of baggage.
Playwright Mark Brown's stage adaptation traverses most of the same territory as Jules Verne's Victorian novel with five actors, a minimum of props, few chairs, circular staircase, back wall of versatile doors and cleverly painted floor that resembles a game board.
The drama of the evening is supplied by the race against the calendar journey undertaken when the unemotional, always rational Fogg bets his British club mates a small fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.
Ron Bohmer and Jeffrey Kuhn star as the methodical Fogg and his servant Passepartout.
That leaves three other performers — Tom Beckett, Richard B. Watson and Meera Rohit Kumbhani — to transform themselves into the remaining 31 characters, which include ships' captains, priests, train conductors, servants, a detective, judges and newspaper reporter Nellie Bly.
Kumbhani spends most of the show's second half as Aouda, the woman Fogg and Passepartout rescue from certain death.
She's a charming and vibrant presence that makes her a very human contrast to Bohmer's more rigid, remote, duty-bound Fogg.
So, Bohmer and Kuhn are tasked with making those lightening-fast, multiple changes in character that have become an anticipated part of the fun of similar shows such as "The 39 Steps" and "The Mask of Moriarty."
Along with support from director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, scenic designer Michael Schweikardt, costume designer Martha Bromelmeier, lighting designer Kirk Bookman and sound designer Zach Moore, the cast is tasked with helping to create the obstacles and supports of the journey, such as a typhoon, a Wild West shoot out and transportation by elephant and wind-powered snow sledge.
Needless to say, this is an evening of theater that neither is deep nor serious, although it does feel constrained to wrap up with a minor message about what's important in life.
Entertainment and inventiveness drive the show with an emphasis on silliness, funny accents and costume cleverness.
The downside of this is the actors' tendency to let us know that this is all in fun by overemphasizing the presentational nature of the show or losing their ability to keep a straight face during some over-the-top moments of giddiness.
The show runs two hours with one intermission, which seems a bit longer than necessary. Fortunately, Milgrom and the cast mirror Fogg's sure-footed, unflappable progress by keeping a fast pace throughout.Additional Information:
At a glance
'Around the World in 80 Days'
Produced by: Pittsburgh Public Theater
When: Through May 13 at 8 p.m. most Tuesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. most Saturdays, Sundays and May 10; 7 p.m. most Sundays and May 8
Admission: $28-$60, or $15.75 for age 26 and younger
Where: O'Reilly Theater, Downtown
Details: 412-316-1600 or www.ppt.org
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Rutherford hits jackpot with Kessel
- Penguins get their man in making trade with Toronto for Kessel
- H-D Advanced Manufacturing in Franklin Park buys Virginia-based aerospace components maker Firstmark
- Rossi: Wild Wednesday proves Steelers rule
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- New Kensington residents rally in support of 82-year-old robbery victim
- Instances of hacking may be up, but indictments against Chinese military impactful, experts say
- McKeesport duo a big part of PSGA basketball recruiting class
- Group takes veterans, seniors in WWII-era planes at Unity airport
- Saxonburg residents surprised by zoning proposal