Circumnavigating the world in less than three months might not impress the modern traveler, but for 19th-century adventurer Phileas Fogg from “Around the World in 80 Days,” it’s a lightning-fast trip.
The play mimics the journey’s speed, and with just over a week until the first live performance of the Lake Tahoe Community College version, the small stuff counts.
LTCC Theater Director Susan Boulanger scanned her yellow notepad Wednesday night, outlining and refining details of the upcoming slapstick production. Boulanger instructed actors to commit 100 percent to their lines, put more urgency in the scenes and enunciate words like “piss pipe” in a clear — yet goofy — French accent. And everything needed to move at the same electric pace as Fogg’s fictional voyage.
“For any play, I work very moment-to-moment. Every moment has to be as right as we can get it. For a play like this that is very comedic, timing is everything. The details I spend my time on are to make each moment work,” Boulanger said.
Mark Brown’s “Around the World in 80 Days” is a playful adaptation of the Jules Verne adventure novel. The production follows Fogg and his sidekick, Passepartout, from the Suez Canal to India to the Wild West as the duo attempts to win an outrageous wager, dogged the whole time by a determined detective. Imagine a mix between Monty Python and the Marx Brothers, and you might have an idea of what “Around the World in 80 Days” is all about, according to Boulanger.
Boulanger first saw the play more than 10 years ago in a Los Angeles theatre where five actors played 39 characters. She liked the show so much she reached out to its creator, Mark Brown, for a copy of the screenplay after searching for it unsuccessfully on her own. She still has the manuscript Brown sent her.
“I was just blown away by this production. It was so wacky, so clever and so inventive. The play has been on my mind for all these years,” Boulanger said.
Boulanger has made some adjustments — she’s working with a 16-person cast and the set work is all her own — but LTCC’s “Around the World in 80 Days” stays true to the comedic and complex nature of Brown’s show. There are numerous scene changes that range across seven continents, almost 40 characters and comedy that needs to be delivered right on cue.
It helps that Boulanger has a stellar cast made up of both seasoned performers and beginners.
“There’s quite a dividing line, but it doesn’t seem to have made any difference,” Boulanger said of the cast. “They’ve been amazing. One of the best ensembles I’ve worked with.”
South Shore resident and experienced actress Courtney Cobble plays Aouda, the female lead and Fogg’s romantic interest. It’s Cobble’s first play with the college, but she has extensive acting experience including a stint in the Star Trek: The Experience attraction in Las Vegas.
“I always loved acting. I think my first play was in kindergarten,” Cobble said. “I wanted to get back in theatre.”
For South Tahoe High School alumnus and LTCC student Dillon Daggs, “Around the World in 80 Days” will be his third show with the college. Daggs plays Passepartout, Fogg’s French assistant.
“It’s not your typical French accent. It’s the goofy aspect of the charecter, and Susan thought I would be a good fit,” Daggs said. “It’s doing what I always loved and I really like the family aspect of this particular theatre.”
The play’s family-friendly theme is one of the many points in its favor, Boulanger said. People need to come see it if for no other reason to watch the cast create an elephant onstage.
“This one will appeal to the kids and the adults. It’s a wild, wacky time and it’s a lot of fun. It gives the audience a glimpse of how people used to view the world,” she said.