We’ve all been there. You and your college classmate are both in love with girls to whom you want to propose before they’re dragged off by their family to Scotland for the summer, but they’re not allowed to come over to your place unless there’s a chaperone there, so you use the opportunity of an unexpected visit from the aunt you’ve never met who is the widow of a Brazilian bazillionaire as a chance to have them over for lunch, and, if all goes well, both get engaged over dessert. But, darn it all, your aunt sends a message saying she’ll be delayed, so you call in a third classmate to dress up like your aunt so the lunch can go on uninterrupted. And then your buddy’s dad and the girls’ uncle both show up and start trying to woo your “aunt” despite the fact she’s ugly as a mud fence, because, well, Brazilian bazillionaire. To top it all off, your aunt does show up with—can you believe it—the long-lost love of your third buddy, who can’t reveal himself because everyone still thinks he’s your aunt. Good times, am I right?
What—you say you haven’t all been there? Yes, well, the outlandish nature of the plot is a large, though not the largest, part of the fun of Charley’s Aunt, a laugh-out-loud funny drawing room comedy by Brandon Thomas, presented superbly by Marietta’s own Mid-Ohio Valley Players. To be completely honest, the play starts out a little talk-y, but that’s the nature of a drawing room farce. But once the scene is set toward the end of Act I, the laughs are nonstop, with so many witty one-liners, tons of physical comedy, and enough people pretending to be other people, that it would make Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare proud.
The largest part of the fun of this show is the brilliant performances of the cast members under the equally excellent direction of co-directors Susan Boyer and JR Wells. Anyone who reads my reviews knows how big a fan I am of R. J. Lowe, and he earns my praise once more as Lord Fancourt Babberly, known affectionately as Babbsy to his friends, and as Aunt Donna-Lucia D’Alvadorez to his friends’ girlfriends. But Lowe, who has stolen many a show, almost has the show stolen right out from under him by McKenzie Mayle as Mrs. Brassett, the maid and part-time narrator of the story. Her part may be small, but between the non-stop snark and the just plain perfect interpretation, Mayle is a treat to watch.
Tim Tuten and Liam Kinnett as Jack Chesney and the titular Charley Wykeham are stellar as well. Though they are somewhat the straight men to Lowe’s Babberley, they get their share of funny moments as well. Tuten is painfully funny as his character tries to work up the courage to propose to his beloved Kitty, played with great aplomb by Madison Roe. The scene is made even funnier by the fact that Kitty knows all along what Chesney is trying to do and is ornery enough to not make it easy on him.
George Faber as Chesney’s father, Colonel Sir Francis Chesney and George Litman as Stephen Spettigue are hilarious rivals for the hand of Charley’s Aunt—until, that is, Charley’s real Aunt Donna-Lucia, portrayed excellently by Kathy Biery, comes along to steal one of the two men’s heart away. Meadow McCarthy as Amy Spettigue and Erin Ammons as Ela Delahay are both also wonderful. The entire cast submit bravura performances.
The show has already opened, but you still have time to see it—and you really should. There are performances on June 19, 25, and 26 at 8:00 pm and June 27 at 3:00 pm, so don’t miss it. Tickets are available by visiting the MOVP website. If you can’t make it out to the theater, the June 26 performance is available to stream. Tickets for that are available on the website as well. In person or online, you’ll be glad you saw this show, so get your tickets soon.