Let’s get one thing straight: there’s Charley’s aunt, and then there’s “Charley’s aunt” – and the confusion about which is which is part of the fun of Brandon Thomas’ 19th-century farce, on the boards through Feb. 16 at OnStage Playhouse.
Why is Charley’s aunt important? Well, here’s the slight plot: Oxford undergrads Jack (Alexander Mayes) and Charley (Vince Coleman) want to have dinner with girlfriends Kitty (Jasmin Mellado) and Amy (Lindsay Gilda Gampel) but – since this is 1892 – they need a chaperone. They ask Charley’s real Aunt, Brazilian Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez (Cheryl Livingston) up from London to do the honors.
But her train is late, so it’s time for Plan B: they draft “Babbs,” aka Oxford student Lord Fancourt Babberley (Joey M. Ryan) – who just happens to have acquired a dress for his upcoming stage debut – to play Aunt Lucia.
It’s not that anybody in his right mind would think Babbs looks much like a woman, especially with trousers and men’s shoes protruding below his dress, but that’s the beauty of farce: you’re not allowed to question oddities too closely.
To make it even sillier, the fathers of our two protagonists show up (it seems they are graduating seniors), and they will take a shine – in farcical manner – to the “aunt.”
OnStage has a creditable cast for this sillyfest, with Mayes and Coleman playing well off each other as Jack and Charley. Mayes has by now probably conquered his evident opening-night jitters and a tendency to rush through his lines.
Ryan is suitably goofy-looking in drag, and Mellado and Gampel are fine as the girlfriends. Livingston is properly elegant as the real Aunt Lucia.
But the best and steadiest cast member is Steve Murdock as the valet Brassett. Murdock, a seasoned pro, has stepped in for ailing Doug Shattuck.
This is a three-act show, requiring a complete set change for each. Kudos to the stage crew for their efficiency in moving flats, props and furniture as quickly as they did.
“Charley’s Aunt” made playwright Thomas’ reputation (and fortune), and though he hoped it would be an entree to serious consideration of his more serious works, it was (and is still) “Charley’s Aunt” that everyone remembers.
We should all be so lucky.
“Charley’s Aunt” plays through Feb. 16 at OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Ave., Chula Vista.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
For tickets: (619) 422-7787 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.