A farce in three acts by playwright Brandon Thomas, CHARLEY’S AUNT was first presented in 1892 in England. It was an instant hit and ran 1466 performances. In 1893, the play crossed the Atlantic to arrive on Broadway, again a big hit. In fact, CHARLEY’S AUNT has been performed across the globe for over 100 years and has always enchanted audiences. The uproarious people-pleasing farce has been adapted to film – both silent in 1915 and sound in 1930 – with the most famous cinematic version starring Jack Benny in 1941. The play even became a Spanish zarzuela in 1897 and a Broadway musical called “Where’s Charley” in 1948 with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and starring Ray Bolger (remember “Once in Love with Amy?”). Of course, such an audience favorite has also been adapted for television.
It’s the Roaring Twenties, and Jack Chesney (Ethan Leaverton) and Charley Wykham (Anthony Lofaso), both imminent Yale graduates, have a problem. Charley has never met his Aunt Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez (Megan Blakeley), the immensely wealthy widow of a Brazilian tycoon – and now she’s scheduled a visit. Using the opportunity to advance their romantic cause, the two chaps have arranged for their girlfriends, Amy Verdun (Lauren Faulkner) and Kitty Spettigue (Autumn Harrison), to meet Charley’s aunt, who will handily serve as a chaperone to keep the meeting socially acceptable and above board. At the last minute, Donna Lucia can’t make it – and the two desperate young men must figure out what to do – especially since both fellows plan to propose during their afternoon tete-a-tete. Enter Lord Fancourt Babberley (Ethan Haslam), who only wants to steal a few bottles of champagne and ends up transforming into Charley’s absent aunt. And eventually meeting the challenge – until Ela Delahay (Angie Portillo), his personal love interest, shows up to complicate matters.
But problems continue to pile up under the amused eye of houseman/butler Brassett (Richard Malmos). Jack’s widowed father Colonel Francis Chesney (Howard Lockie) appears unexpectedly to tell his son that the family fortunes have evaporated and that a penniless Jack may have to move to Bengal to work for a living. As it turns out the young ladies are the legal wards of fortune-hunter Stephen Spettigue (Shawn Cahill); they cannot marry without his written permission – at which point he loses complete control of their wealth. In the midst of the chaos, who should show up but the real Donna Lucia?
Director Carter Thomas has done an excellent job of keeping the play moving swiftly along, replete with hilarious sight jokes and the obligatory but also hysterical pratfalls. The large cast really gets into the tale with enthusiasm and talented teamwork. Costume designer Angela Manke has a ball dressing up the twenties crowd, and Paul Reid’s lighting keeps the scenes rolling along. CHARLEY’S AUNT is an entertaining, uproarious comedy which shouldn’t be missed.
CHARLEY’S AUNT runs through February 1, 2020, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Glendale Centre Theatre is located at 324 N. Orange Street, Glendale, CA 91203. Tickets start at $28. For information and reservations, call 818-244-8481 or go online.