Travels With My Aunt Review – Brilliant!

When in 1992 Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Artistic Associate Marilyn Campbell founded Writer’s Theatre they were hoping to create an environment where the written word and the nurturing of artists were the foundation of all productions. The current performance of Graham Greene’s, Travels With My Aunt would seem to be the perfect example of what they intended.

Opening at the Writer’s Theatre a bit later than expected, Travels With My Aunt was worth the wait.  It is a brilliant production, captivating and original. The cast features LaShawn Banks, Sean Fortunato, John Hoogenakker and Jeremy Sher as an ensemble with “spot on” timing, pacing, and characterization.

This production was adapted for the stage by Giles Havergal and directed by Stuart Carden, Associate Artistic Director, in his directing debut. Artistic Director Michael Halbaerstam says, “Stuart Carden has truly energized Writer’s Theatre with the integrity of his insight and the freshness of his perspective.”  Though this was not a musical, the language was beautiful and “musical”.

Graham Greene was one of the most celebrated English novelists of his generation.  His novels include: Orient Express, The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, Our Man in Havana, and The Comedians and more as well as Travels With My Aunt. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was notable for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity.

Travels With My Aunt is the story of Henry Pulling, a mild-mannered retired banker, leading a quiet life growing dahlias. He’s never been far from his Southwood, England home.  When he is at his mother’s funeral he is reacquainted with his Aunt Augusta, and finds out what an eccentric and outrageous lady she is.  Because of his aunt, Henry finds himself involved in a series of exotic international adventures. Mysterious information about Henry’s past comes to light. It was amazing to see the way in which four actors who switched identities, nationalities, ages and genders with perfect pacing and timing, inventively portrayed Henry and Aunt Augusta, and the more than 25 characters they meet along the way.  This maintained a high level of energy and excitement throughout.

In the intimate setting of the theater behind the book store, it felt as though we were part of Henry’s experience, traveling by ship, air and train. Travels took us with Henry to England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Argentina, Paraguay and connecting points.  It was a fascinating trip.

Mikhail Fiksel (sound designer) arranged effects that were unique and deserve special recognition.

Designers are Brian Sidney Bembridge (scenic), Jesse Klug (lighting), Jacqueline Firkins (costumes) and Nick Heggestad (properties). Stage manager is Rebecca Pechler.

From entering Books on Vernon, which is worth a visit on its own, through the enjoyment of this charming production of Travels With My Aunt, we enjoyed a great evening.  Fortunately, the run goes until March 21, but with its popularity, one would be wise to secure tickets quickly.

Writer’s Theatre
664 vernon avenue, Glencoe

Ticket discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
Call 847-242-6000 for more details.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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