“Around the World in 80 Days” is a play by Mark Brown adapted from the well-loved novel by Jules Verne first published in 1873. The story line is an intriguing one; Phileas Fogg has wagered two men at the Reform Club that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Steamers and trains will be his main form of transportation although an elephant ride in India was the most interesting. His servant Passeapartout accompanies him and along the journey they meet many others. Their trip begins and ends in London. The show has five actors who play 39 characters and travel to seven continents. After seeing the show the song “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Still, and Nash came to mind “I have been around the world, lookin’ for that woman-girl, who knows love can endure, and you know it will.” Every show has an element of love to it and this one does as well.
The Open Window Theatre is inside a warehouse just outside of downtown Minneapolis. The house manager described it this way “There’s broadway and off-broadway. In Minneapolis we have Hennepin and off-Hennepin.” The theatre was opened last season by Jeremy and Sarah Stanbary. Sarah was greeting theatre goers at the door when I arrived. With a family-owned theatre, it gives it a nice homey feel. As I walked in I noticed pictures, books, couches, tables, and antiques. It was a quaint waiting area where snacks were served as well.
The theatre itself was intimate and set up very well. There are four sections of chairs on three levels. The chairs are lawn chairs and there is ample space for leg room to be comfortable. This is another benefit of a venue that is smaller and built from the ground up. It caters to audiences well.
Since the cast was small it was easy to “get to know them” well. David Otto Simanek payed Phileas Fogg. At first his character s
eemed uptight and rigid. As the play progressed you learned he had attributes of Scrooge, cold at first but in the end kind and loveable. Robie Hayek played the role of Passepartout. He had a great french accent and did a wonderful job as the servant. One of my favorite parts was how nimble he was. He did some great acrobatics that excited the audience, especially the children. Stephanie Wipf was the only female in the show. She played four roles with her largest role being Aouda. She was very articulate with her lines as the Newspaperman which is always helpful in theater. Daniel McLaughlin played 17 roles. He was the comic relief of the show and did a wonderful job. He transitioned between parts well which allowed different characters to take on different life forms. Eric Heimsoth stole the show. He was hands down my favorite character actor. His facial expressions and gestures were captivating. He played 9 roles and Detective
Fix was his main part. Eric truly knew how to command an audience. With so many lines it must have been very difficult to prepare and yet it seemed effortless for him. Bravo!
The set was minimal but rightfully so. Since there were many places that the cast “visited” it made sense to keep it simple. On the back wall was a map of the world. When the actors were in a country that area on the map lit up. This helped remind the audience where they were. Clocks were a large part of the show as well. Time was a key element in establishing where they were, what time trains and boats left, and what time zone they were on. There were five ways to enter the stage which made it fun to see where the actors would come and go.
Open Window Theatre
September 28-October 18