Opening Nights: Charley's Aunt

A bit of a drag at Taproot.

Wilde, Shaw, Gilbert and Sullivan: Of the vast number of plays produced for theater-mad Victorian audiences, their work alone survives. Oh, and, inexplicably, this 1892 confection, a record-breaking hit in its time, by Brandon Thomas. True, men in drag are eternal comic gold, but who these days can relate to a play in which the heroes are Oxford undergrads who live in lavish paneled rooms and have manservants? Two of these, Jack and Charley, want to entertain two young ladies for lunch; lacking a chaperone, they talk a third friend into posing as, yes, Charley's aunt. Taproot's is a lovely production with an able cast, though some of the dialogue is drowned out by the creaking of the exposition, and the actors occasionally trip over the plot holes Thomas left unfilled. Among the cast members, Anne Kennedy (as Kitty, one of the lunch guests) best gets the upper-class thing, the clipped, genteel frostiness, while Andrew Litsky seems to have the best knack for farce, bringing a polished weightlessness to the role of Jack's father, a military "old campaigner."The most contemporary aspect of Charley's Aunt is that all the women seem sharper than all the men. You could even argue there's a feminist slant to Thomas' treatment of Charley's real aunt, who does pop up in Act 2: shrewd, independent, charming, and ready to take charge of her love life even in widowhood. In the role, Llysa Holland grabs the play's reins from her first moment onstage.

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