(l to r) Benjamin Privitt as nephew Henry Pulling getting initiated into the life of travel by Aunt Augusta (Kalli Jonsson) in Cinnabar's production of Travels With My Aunt. Photo by Eric Chazankin.

TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT: Comedy adapted by Scottish dramatist Giles Havergalfrom Graham Greene’s novel. Directed by Ken Ruta. Cinnabar Theater is located at3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA. 415-897-7772 or 8 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays.. Sept. 24 - Oct. 17, 2010


There is much to like about Giles Havergal’s adaptation of Graham Green’s delightful novel Travel’s With My Aunt that is receiving an engaging staging at Cinnabar Theatre in Petaluma under local icon Ken Ruta’s inventive direction. What should be a riotous evening ends up as a pleasant interlude of theater with highs outweighing the lows but not fully satisfying.

The story line is darling and Graham Greene’s novel takes us on a roller coaster journey from England, to Turkey on the Orient Express and by boat and plane to Paraguay following the exploits of the charmingly wicked Aunt Augusta. However, descriptive exposition is perfectly acceptable and expected in a novel but in a play becomes a bit tedious. To add to the difficulty of transition from novel to the stage is the fact the Havergal has written the play for four male actors playing numerous roles including the female parts. Most of the time this is hilarious but the excellent Equity cast give uneven interpretations as they switch between their various characters and the staging lacks subtlety.

The catalyst is of course our dear world traveler Aunt Augusta (Kalli Jonsson) who attends the funeral of her sister and entices/seduces in a non-sexual way, her Dahlia loving, bland bank clerk nephew Henry Pulling (Benjamin Privitt) into an anarchic journey of intrigue leading to self-discovery. She smuggles drugs and gold, takes on Wordsworth (Richard Rossi) a black South African gigolo, and later dumps him for Ercole Visconti (Richard Rossi again) a notorious Italian revolutionary. Then there is “Tooley” O’Toole (Floyd Harden) from the CIA who has a daughter “Tooley” (Floyd Hardin again) who has (had) the ‘hots’ for Henry.

You get the picture. It rather is Monty Python off steroids. Kalli Jonsson as Aunt Augusta plays the part as if he were a male rendition of Maggie Smith who starred in the movie version and that’s good. He stays in complete character, with a few glitches, as an English grand dame with a love of sex and adventure completely oblivious to matters of law. Benjamin Privitt maintains a stiff-upper-lip as bland Henry but has the unenviable task of delivering the needed exposition to carry the plot along. Floyd Hardin and Richard Rossi shine in their multiple roles that are highlights of the evening.

Once again the production values are thoroughly professional and a visit to see the show is well worth the trip. Go early, stop at the Outlet Center, and pick up a few bargains. Running time about 2 hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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