“Charley’s Aunt” Does Fine Without Uncle

“I’m Charley’s aunt from Brazil–where the nuts come from,” says Lord Fancourt

“Babbs” Babberley in Guthrie’s production of Brandon Thomas’ farce, directed by John Miller-Stephany. “Charley’s Aunt” opened on Dec. 2 and runs through the holiday season until Jan. 15.

Thomas’s comedy centers around two Oxford students, Jack Chesney (Matthew Amendt) and Charley Wykeham (Ben Mandelbaum) who force their friend Babbs (John Skelley) to dress up as Charley’s aunt, Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez. Charley has never met his aunt–a rich widow who is supposed to be arriving at Oxford from Brazil. Jack and Charley ask their sweethearts Kitty and Amy over for lunch in order to meet the aunt, actually intending to propose to them, when the aunt telegrams saying that she will be delayed.

Kitty and Amy would refuse to stay for lunch without a female chaperone, so in a state of panic, the boys convince Babbs to don his costume for a school drama (a Victorian-era black ruffled dress complete with a doily and a gray curled wig) and play the part of Charley’s wealthy old aunt from Brazil. Chaos and hilarity ensue.

The star of the show, the hilarious Skelley, combines slapstick and precisely-said lines with ease. The other young actors give respectable, yet sometimes bland performances, while the adults in the play are comfortable and poised, especially Sally Wingert and Charles Hubbell.

The impressive, multi-faceted set is designed by John Coyne, which the actors get to sprint all around in mad, desperate chases.

“Charley’s Aunt” remains, at heart, a comedy designed for laughter and amusement, and if you like slapstick and absurdity, the perfect holiday play.