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Travels With My Aunt

Top Row: Rory Kulz

Bottom Row (left to right): Thomas Jay Ryan, Jay Russell, and Daniel Jenkins

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg


                                                                           By Eugene Paul


Graham Greene (such a dullish name for such a sharpish wit and observer) wrote a wicked little chronicle about a lady –say that artfully – who was sly, funny, amoral and interesting, and the crashing effect she administered to her said, banker nephew who became so embroiled in the dodgy machinations of that aforesaid lady, his Aunt Augusta, he quite lost his way. And learned to love it. That he journeyed not only yon but hither, at her call and beck, terrified, reveling in a new life in the toils of Aunt Augusta makes up this tidily untidy story.


Now how do you put this free wheeling, chancy, tight rope existence on a stage without lashings of sets, props, people and chutzpah?  Ask Giles Havergal – now there’s a Name for you conjures up showbiz like crazy – and what did G. H. do? He started – and ended – with chutzpah, although I’m sure he never called it that, but then, he’s not an American, and swooped twenty-seven characters from as many adventures into four, identically clad (thank you, costume designer Jennifer Paar), incarnations of Henry Pulling, fated nephew to the enchanting Aunt Augusta, each one of them also a vehicle for a raft of other characters to be played.



Actor Jay Russell plays not only Henry from time to inconvenient time but also Tooley, O’Toole, Miss Keene, Frau General Schmidt, Italian girl, Yolanda, Richard Pulling, Vicar, and Policeman. (He is so beguiling as the 14 year old Italian girl that you won’t be surprised to learn that in the book Henry marries her.  But not in this show.  No time.)(Among other things.)


Actor Dan Jenkins plays Henry as needed, also Wordsworth (there’s a worthy for you), Mr. Visconti (oh, oh, oh), Colonel Hakim, Miss Paterson, Detective Sergeant Sparrow, Spanish gentleman, and taxi driver. All the gentilhommes fatales who Aunt Augusta is drawn to, like, well, catnip.


 Rory Kulz plays Henry, of course, Girl in jodhpurs, Guard, Wolfhound, Hotel Receptionist, Turkish Policeman, Bodyguard and several useful others intensely. You feel complete trust in all his capabilities, everything he executes, fully, confidently, cheekily.  A delight.


Actor Thomas Jay Ryan, plays Henry, Henry and Henry principally but even more, unprincipled Aunt Augusta, Aunt Augusta, Aunt Augusta and over and over, quick as a wink, without changing a hair, a cufflink, a blink. Mesmerizing.


All these characters in this protean diet find nourishment in the setting contraption which set designer Steven C. Kemp has devilishly invented for the employment and enjoyment of cast and audience making it possible for us to join Henry and Aunt Augusta in a dizzying number of places. After a bit, you notice that most of the management of the settings is in the deft hands of wry, spry, utterly delightful Rory Kulz, the fourth Henry, the only dog (such a dog.)


And then, when you think you need more, for the second act, having become accustomed to being surprised and delighted in the first, why, there they are.  True, harried director Jonathan Silverstein has to cope with the invented machinations of author Graham Greene trotting out thriller clues and wiggling around them, which carry tale along leaving little room for witty attitudes to break out again and again as we have earlier enjoyed, but what the hell, you can’t have everything, although the estimable Giles Havergal certainly gives it the old college try. But there’s a trick or two up his capacious sleeve before a none too unexpected denouement, so, enjoy the game and never fear.  You are in good hands.


Travels with My Aunt. At the Clurman theatre in Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street. Tickets: $62.50. 212-239-6200. 2 hrs. Thru Nov. 14.