In Two Hours
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By Iride Aparicio

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

PALO ALTO, CA. The magic of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is making possible for its audience to take a tour around the world in two hours, as they watch the exhilarating adventures of Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout in  playwright MARK BROWN’s 2008 adaptation of  the play  “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.”

When “Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours”  (AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS) the classic adventure novel written by JULES VERNE, was published serially,  in l872,  and as a novel a year later, the book became immediately popular with readers because its hero Phileas Fogg, achieved what had just become a “reality” in the l870's, which was to be able to circle the globe entirely via man made inventions: steam trains,  steamships and a four wheel wind-moved platform. The balloon, was not included in this play because it was a Hollywood’s “invention” for MICHAEL TODD’s six Academy Award-winning movie, including Best Picture of the Year, AROUND THE WORLD in 8o DAYS, in l956.

In l872, the itinerary for the trip around the world was:

  • 7 days from London via Rail, to Italy and then to steamer ship  to cross the Mediterranean sea
  • 13 days from Suez to Bombay (India) via Steamer
  • 3 days steamer train from Bombay to Calcutta India
  • 13 days from Calcutta to Hong Kong via steamer
  • 6 days from Hong Kong to Japan via steamer.
  • 22 days from Japan to San Francisco, via steamer
  • 7 days from San Francisco to New York via rail
  • 9 days from New York to Liverpool via steamer and then from Liverpool by rail to get back to London.  

JULES  VERNE starts his novel as follows:

Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814. He was one of the most noticeable members of the Reform Club, though he seemed always to avoid attracting attention; an enigmatical personage, about whom little was known, except that he was a polished man of the world.”

This is the information  the book provides about  Phileas Fogg: Our hero is single, he has no wife, no children and a few friends.  He lives alone. He is eccentric, he is rich and is  a member of the Reform Club. 

Since its publication in l872,  VERNE’s novel has been adapted to many mediums. Including a stage version written  by VERNE and playwright ADOLPHE D’ENNERY in l874. There have been also movies based on the novel, that takes place in London in l872. 

In BROWN's play opening, scene, we meet Englishman Mr. Fogg (JASON KUYKENDALL) in his elegant London Apartment  as  James Forster, his just  dismissed valet,  announces to him the arrival of  “the new servant”:  Jean Passepartout (TRISTAN CUNNINGHAM) Passepartout is the surname that the new valet  uses to indicate that he is a Jack of all trades. Translated to English the French word passepartout means “master key.”

Principal.jpgWe then move to the interior of the exclusive Reform Club, where this time  Mr. Fogg (KUYKENDALL) (Third to the R of the photograph) is sitting at a gambling table  with three other gentlemen talking about the possibilities that had just opened to people, of  fast travelling around the world. 

As a bet,  Mr. Fogg tells the men that he could accomplish the trip  in 80 days. The men bet 20,000 pounds against him being unable to circle the globe in such a short time. When he returns to his apartment  he informs Passepartout  that  he is coming with him on a tour around the world.

The play  covers the different aspects of the voyage. The different countries they visit, the people they meet during the trip and their means of transportation:  steam engines, steam boats  and a four-wheel cart that moves when pushed by the wind.  

The voyage, however,  soon changes and becomes “a chase” when we learned that the gentleman who robbed the gold ingot weighting seven or eight pounds from the Bank of England,  fits Mr. Foog’s description.  Detective  Fix (MICHAEL GENE SULLIVAN) convinced that he is the robber, decides to chase him during his tour  around the world.

Before watching the show, (12/9) CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL, aware of the size of  VERNE’s novel, the variety of places it describes and the amount of characters that are mentioned in the novel,  could not believe that a story of such epic proportions could  be presented on a stage, as a play. But we had to admit (After watching BROWN's adaptation, of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS for the stage) that the Award-winning playwright not only managed to cover all the im portant points in Fogg’s travel saga, which included among other things the rescue of Indian Princess Aouda ( AJNA JAI)  by Mr. Fogg and Passepartout  and a gun battle with the American Indians. In their dialogue. BROWN also managed to give three-dimensions to all the play's principal characters.

More interesting to mention, is that MARK BROWN penned the adventure, that employs nearly forty characters, into a few actors, in what the playwright calls “His signature style”

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The actors were: Phileas Fogg (JASON KUYKENDALL) the only actor who played a single role. Passepartout and John Sullivan played by  TRISTAN CUNNINGHAM. Gauthier Ralph, British Consuls, Sir Francis Cromarty, Judge Obadiah, Captain Bunsby, Colonel Proctor, Mudge, Captain Speedy, Maid, et al, played by RON CAMPBELL. Aouda, James Forster, Newsboy played by AJNA JAI. Detective Fix, Andrew Stuart, Elephant Owner, Young Parsi, and Oyster Puff played by MICHAEL GENE SULLIVAN.

Under the masterfull direction of ROBERT KELLEY, the acting of each one of the characters impersonating their different roles, was completely natural, even when trying to making us believe that they were sitting in a moving train, or  in a boat facing a terrible sea storm.

While all the roles were played to perfection, we should mention the excellent acting of CUNNINGHAM (a woman) in her role of Passepartout (At times, forgot to fake his French Accent, but her antics managed to keep us laughing. Another actor who needs mention is RON CAMPBELL who played to perfection each one of his multiple roles.  

We should also mention and give credit for his imagination, to Set Designer JOE RAGEY fo his set, inspired by a chromolithograph game board of “AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” from 1904-l915 by ROCHE FRERES printing in Paris. The board itself is used as a backdrop in various scenes and on the side walls of the set. The game board that also has 80 thumbnail illustrations encircling a map of the world, is impressive.

The scenic Designs combined with apt direction of  the actors by KELLEY, represent the action taking place in sailing ships, inside moving steam trainTW Around the World in 80 Days 13_Kevin Berne.jpgs, riding in a sail driven sledge, and sitting on an  elephant through India’s jungle.
(Left to Right front) Phileas Fogg (JASON KUYKENDALL) Parsi (MICHAEL GENE SULLIVAN) and Sir Francis (RON CAMPBELL) with Passepartout (TRISTAN CUNNINGHAM) in the back)

The play is interested enough to keep us at the edge of our seats for two hours wondering what is going to happen next.

In AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, TheatreWorks offers to the audience a family play, who is visually enough to entertain children, and that at the end, when we we begin to lose hope, takes a turns and give us an unpredictable, happy ending.


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JASON KUYKENDALL as FOGG and AJNA JAI as princess Aouda

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS will be shown at Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto until December 31, 2017. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to TheatreWorks.org.