Left to right: Richard Baird, Omri Schein and Lovlee Carroll in "Around the World in 80 Days." Photo by Aaron Rumley
Stamina is the word that comes to mind in regard to Mark Brown’s rigorous adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Brown’s circumnavigational odyssey, now on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, calls for a cast of five to portray more than 40 different characters. One of the actors, Will Vought, takes on 19 all by himself. That’s stamina. That’s perspiration. You see plenty of it, and not just on Vought’s brow alone, during the two-hours-plus production.
Stentorian-voiced Richard Baird is the lone member of the ensemble who plays only one part, but it’s the central role of adventurer Phileas Fogg, who to win a wager unflappably embraces the quest to travel around the world in 80 days. As Fogg’s sidekick Passepartout, the dependably hilarious Omri Schein owns the North Coast Rep stage every moment he’s on it, demonstrating his remarkable talent for both physical and reactive comedy. Rounding out the cast (billed simply as Actor 1, Actor 2, Actor 3 and so on) are Loren Lester in multiple roles, principally that of a detective pursuing Fogg in a generally useless subplot to the main story, and Lovlee Carroll, whose highest-profile character is that of a petite Indian woman rescued from a ritual sacrifice by Fogg.
Brown’s script is very busy and more than a bit contrived, but the game cast gives it a good go under the direction of Allison Bibicoff. The rapid-fire costume changing borders on vaudevillian, which seems apt for a show like this one, and there’s never a moment taken or presented too seriously. Who knows what Jules Verne would have thought of this reimagination, but he doubtlessly would have cracked a smile, and perhaps more than one.
Around the World in 80 Days continues through Feb. 4. For more information, go to northcoastrep.org
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.