It all plays out on set designer Kelly Tighe’s vast, colorful backdrop featuring a circular rotating platform, which provides the motion and momentum for the journey — the acceleration provided by one or more actors visibly pushing the contraption. The concept is so simple that it, too, is funny.
Heading the handful of industrious actors is Matthew Floyd Miller as the ramrod-stiff, persnickety Brit Phileas Fogg, who bets fellow members of his London Reform Club “20 thoosand poonds,” as one Scot puts it, that he can travel around the world in the allotted 80-day timetable. Miller smartly maintains his single-dimensional character through the most trying of times and exasperating of situations.
The show is effectively stolen by his hyperactive servant, Gendell Hernandez playing the role that won Cantinflas an Oscar for the screen version. Hernandez is a howl with his fractured French, but the velocity of his delivery often drowns out the clarity of his speech.
Whatever portions of the show aren’t swiped by Hernandez are effectively usurped by Howard Swain as the police detective shadowing Fogg on his journey, certain that the adventurer is a London bank robber. Swain possesses enough energy to propel the show on his own.
As the comely lass rescued from a fiery fate in India, Anna Bullard is a decorative addition to the journey. And Mark Farrell — completing the cast by playing no fewer than 16 characters — turns in an exhausting series of performances.
Brown’s play is so visually and emotionally appealing that audiences may overlook its more questionable aspects — such as, why a demanding fellow would sack one servant for serving his tea a few degrees off, then be steadfastly loyal to his replacement under life-threatening circumstances. Such qualms are happily discarded as a highly charged company shows Laguna audiences how to go “Around the World in 80 Days.”
TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.