Everyone has heard of “Mrs. Doubtfire” and Tyler Perry’s Madea, but has the name “Charley’s Aunt” ever come out of the mouth of a teenager in this day and age? This month, the Georgia Ensemble Theatre in Roswell took a stab at putting on the gender switch up classic only to find the venue was sold out, the audience was on the edge of its seats and laughing with tears of joy falling down their cheeks.
The lights flickered on and off and the audience members eagerly took their seats as the curtains opened and revealed two men talking about the one thing two young men have in common: love. Not only was that similar, but both shared over the top British accents that no doubtedly appeased all of the ladies in the room. In its review, the AJC mentioned that the British accents were over exaggerated. It was indeed so, but in no way did it create a negative impression. The actors made this choice as a homage to the farce genre of the play. A farce is a comic work that usually features crude characterization and is set in improbable situations. With the outrageous plot and characters, it is hard to believe that this play can be relevant to present-day life. However, like most classic works, “Charley’s Aunt” has a few surprises in store.
The play by Brandon Thomas (1848-1914) is set in the late 19th century and is a story of two young men, Jack and Charley, who are trying with all of their might to court two lovely ladies. One day, Charley gets a letter from his aunt, who he has never seen before, The newly discovered aunt writes to him from Brazil, letting him know that she will be visiting at any moment. Jack and Charley look at this as the perfect moment to invite the girls for tea to meet Charley’s aunt. To the boys disappointment, the aunt sends another letter informing Charley that she will be a few days late. This unexpected turn leaves the boys stressed about how they will get away with inviting the girls. Then their friend Lord Babberley (Babbs for short) shows up to “borrow” some champagne and reveals he is rehearsing for a play where he has the role of an old lady. Conveniently, Babbs even has the costume. Jack and Charley convince Babbs to pose as Charley’s aunt and all the excitement begins.
First performed in 1892, the play still entertains audiences around the world today. Hugh Adams, the actor who plays Babbs in Georgia Ensemble Theatre’s production told VOX: “This piece is timeless. There’s a sweetness about it that is somewhat reassuring to the audience because the conflicts in the piece are recognizable in our everyday lives.” Adams’ character goes through the most striking transformation in this play. “When Babbs puts on the dress he discovers himself and becomes a better man,” Adams explained. With teens today blurring traditional gender roles with fashion and an ongoing fascination with cosplay, it is very inspiring to see that they are not the only ones who feel confident when trying new things and finding themselves.
“Charley’s Aunt” will keep being revived and enjoyed not only for the reassurances it brings to the audience, but also because as Adams says, “it’s a fun ride!”