Around the World in 80 Days @ Long Beach Playhouse – Review

Written by Craig Grossman 

Stage adapter Mark Brown brought a very different vision of  Around the World in 80 Days to the stage at the Long Beach Playhouse. The play had a sense of modernity and gentle hints of boldness. Refreshingly enough,  Brown’s portrayal adds more humor to the show than I’ve previously experienced from this Jules Byrnes’ classic adventure novel.

Around the World in 80 Days tells the story of a member of the Reform Club–a British Victorian gentleman’s club. This adventuresome Londoner’s name is Phileas Fogg, and he adamantly devises a plan to crisscross the world in 80 days. Fogg’s fellow Reform Club mates are all skeptical at the prospect of such a daunting feat. After all, this is the 1870s, when such a journey would be impractical. He is prompted to accept a wager of 20,000 British pounds stating that he can complete his journey within the allotted 80-day time period. During the journey, Fogg traveled via rail and on steamers throughout India, Egypt, China, Japan, and the United States.

I read the Jules Byrne-authored 80 Days, so I was already approaching this stage version with some understanding of the overall storyline. Unlike the Byrnes novel, I found humor to be present in this stage adaptation. It made the play flow more easily for my tastes (actors bouncing hilariously up and down on their seats to demonstrate being on a train, for example). There’s serious versatility in this skeleton crew of a cast, as only five actors play through the entire show.  

Rick Reischman (Phileas Fogg) guides the play beautifully as its lead actor but shows the least versatility of the actors on stage (given that he only plays one character). Lisa Carver plays multiple roles in this show, playing an Indian princess and male roles. Jaxson Brashier is fantastic. I can’t help but associate him with Bobby Moynihan of the NBC TV show “Saturday Night Live” in both looks and comedic ability. Stephen Alan Carver brings excellent laughter to the assembled audience by playing the French servant Jean Passepartout. His overall body language and persona are the funniest overall, as he takes material that is not funny and does a lot more with it because of his timing and facial expressions.

There are a few failed line delivery instances, but I was pretty impressed. It’s carefree, edgy, and not as uptight as the original Byrne novel. It was stunning how the actors managed to do so much with so little and in such a small performance space.  

Around the World in 80 Days runs April 9th through May 7th on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays. 

April 9 – May 7th, 2016 



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