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Article and photos by Cullen Humphreys

This year, Midland Center For the Arts Interim Theatre Program presents the wildly hilarious Charley’s Aunt. Everyone knows the antics that can come from mistaken identity, and nobody knows that better than playwright Brandon Thomas in his hit from 1892. Two smitten students, Charley Wykeham and Jack Chesney (Tim Koss and Alex Kempsell, respectively) are vying for their lovers’ hands in marriage—Kitty Verdun and Amy Spettigue (Sarah Bishop, Morgan Voss.)

This year, the helm fell to first-time director Shawn Finney. “It’s a timeless theme— young people in love and wanting to go through with it.” The boys soon find out that Charley’s Aunt, Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez (Kim Paul) will be arriving from Brazil...”where the nuts come from!”

Intending to profess their love to the girls, the gents recruit Lord Fancort Babberly ( Gabe Klotz) to distract Donna. Unfortunately, Donna is unable to arrive, and it’s up to the trifecta of boys to create a way for the aunt to be there. It just so happens that Babberly is in a show where he has to play a woman, so becomes, albeit reluctantly, Charley’s aunt! Hilarity ensues as romance blooms for Babbs when two men want to marry him under the guise of his Donna persona! Just when the boys think they have found a way to get what they want, the girls to marry them, the real Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez appears!

The show is a tremendous undertaking—three acts in all. “There was a lot of editing. I cut parts, such as some asides, and had to keep going,” Finney says. “I had to keep it light but acceptable.”

This production features a cast ranging in age from 13 to 21 years. The script itself is funny and strong; however, watching the show reveals the true strength and humor in this production: the chemistry the cast members have with each other. Every character has wonderful little throwaway bits of improvisation here and there, natural reactions to each other, and a general comfort level on stage. As Klotz flails about the stage, the rest of the cast manages (I’m not sure how) to keep a straight face, never breaking character. Finney’s solid directing shines in the quick pace of the action and the bawdy nuances of the humor.

Charley’s Aunt runs August 4th through 6th, 2011 at 8pm in MCFTA’s Little Theatre. Student tickets are $8 and adult tickets $12. Visit the Box Office or 989.631.8250 or 800.523.7649 for more information. 

© Cullen Humphreys, 2011