The reviews are in for Guthrie Theater’s “Charley’s Aunt”

In Guthrie Theater’s “Charley’s Aunt” – which runs through January 15 – it appears the set has upstaged the actors.

While the reviews are decidedly critical of this farce, most reviewers took a moment to acknowledge the set – by John Coyne – which on at least one night inspired applause from the audience.

Check out these excerpts of reviews, or click on the links to read them in their entirety:

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(Clockwise from Top Left) Matthew Amendt (Jack Chesney), Ben Mandelbaum (Charles Wykeham), Valeri Mudek (Kitty Verdun), John Skelley (Lord Fancourt Babberley) and Ashley Rose Montondo (Amy Spettigue) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Charley’s Aunt

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

From Graydon Royce at the Star Tribune:

There is nothing droll or subtle or witty about the Guthrie Theater’s staging of “Charley’s Aunt,” which opened Friday.

With a goose from director John Miller-Stephany, this farce rollicks with the broadest of music hall vaudeville. Rest easy, Benny Hill, your spirit is still alive here, taking cream pies in the face.

…If you are willing to trust the script, “Charley’s Aunt” can be a delightful misadventure. This production? Well, if you like your humor overbaked with a pratfall on the side, it’s gold.

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John Skelley (Lord Fancourt Babberley) and Colin McPhillamy (Stephen Spettigue) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Charley’s Aunt

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

From Renee Valois at the Pioneer Press:

Playwright Brandon Thomas has thrown in plenty of impossible coincidences to goose the absurdity and humor of this classic romantic farce, and director John Miller-Stephany has given the actors plenty of fun sight gags and comic business to keep the laughs flowing, despite the predictability of the plot. Of course, you know from the beginning that this tangled mess of romances gone wrong will somehow get straightened out and everyone will have an implausibly happy ending.

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Ashley Rose Montondo (Amy Spettigue), John Skelley (Lord Fancourt Babberley) and Valeri Mudek (Kitty Verdun) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Charley’s Aunt

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

From Anna Rosenweig at AisleSayTwinCities:

Despite the absolute delight that is [John] Skelley’s performance, the rest of the show doesn’t quite land. Of course, Babbs’ performance is the center of the farce, and it makes sense that the high-points revolve around him/her. It’s understandable that the other characters play straight men and women to his comic performance. Still, it’s too bad that these other characters don’t feel fully realized, and that the show never quite gets on track enough to run off the rails. Much of the staging that doesn’t involve Babbs/Donna Lucia comes across as tired and stilted, as if the show is going through the motions of being a farce without actually being one. But for those seeking a good laugh “Charley’s Aunt” is worth seeing, if only for Skelley’s charming embodiment of an Oxford boy playing a bewildering old woman.

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John Skelley (Lord Fancourt Babberley), Matthew Amendt (Jack Chesney) and Ben Mandelbaum (Charles Wykeham) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Charley’s Aunt

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

From John Olive at HowWasTheShow.com:

Like most old farces, Charley’s Aunt depends greatly on past-tense material – the winding up of the plot rubber-band. But when the band is released, the piece suffers from repetitive one-joke circularity. “I’m from Brazil, where the nuts come from,” comes up a half dozen times. All this makes the play long. In 1890, Lord Babberley’s cross-dressing must have been naughty and thrilling, but nowadays it feels silly.

Did you see “Charley’s Aunt?” If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.

  • Daniel Pinkerton

    I second the comments about John Skelley’s performance. He was outstanding. Kudos to Sally Wingert, Charlie Hubbell, and Peter Thompson as well.

    I think the play is a classic farce, not a tired farce (perhaps not quite as brilliant as those of Feydeau, but still excellent). I laughed a good deal during the final preview performance, and yet . . . it didn’t seem like it was quite there yet. It was perhaps 85% of the Charley’s Aunt of one’s dreams. I’m not sure why. I didn’t mind the physical humor, but like Graydon, I’m not sure I always believed in all the characters.

    More to the point, this is as difficult a play to stage as Private Lives, Hotel Paradiso, or Noises Off. So I’d rather say, “It was 85% of the Charley’s Aunt of my dreams,” congratulate them, and keep on recommending it.