"I'm not an ordinary woman!" Aunt Donna Lucia d'Alvadorez - or at least the person masquerading as the wealthy Brazilian widow - tells an anxious suitor during Act 3 of this classic comedy.
And this is no ordinary British drawing room comedy. Back in the early 1920s, when it first surfaced as a stage play, it must have been the "Noises Off" and "Some Like It Hot" of its day.It starts off quite prim and proper. Two young chaps at Oxford on a spring day in 1892. Jack Chesney and Charley Wykeham (Chad Wainwright and Barclay Tucker) are pining over two young girls they want to court.
Ah, but this is the Age of Manners and a fellow doesn't just wine and dine a young woman without being properly chaperoned.
As luck would have it, dapper young Charley's recently widowed (and independently wealthy) aunt just happens to be arriving this very afternoon from Brazil . . . so Jack and Charley are free to invite Kitty Verdun and Amy Spittigue over for lunch. Which is fine - except just before lunch time there's a telegram about Auntie Donna delaying her arrival a few days.
But Fortune must be smiling on Ches and Wyk. Their college buddy, Lord Fancourt Babberly ("Babs"), who claims he's going to be playing in an amateur theatrical, is quickly - and reluctantly - drafted to to pawn himself off as "Charley's Aunt."
What starts off as a talky comedy quickly escalates into a crackling good farce, with merry chases through the garden and unexpected visitors popping in and running about.
Director Beth Bruner has a fine, competent cast of largely Stage-Right regulars who succeed in making "Charley's Aunt" appear almost fresh - when it could just as well have turned out dowdy and creaky.
Wainwright and Tucker are alternately frustrated and giddy as the two collegiate buddies madly in love with Kitty and Amy (demurely played by Jackelin Slack and Cindy White).
But it's Norman E. Plate who's smack-dab in the middle of things as Lord Babberly. Gussied up as Charley's "aunt" he looks, well . . . rather pretty in pink.
There are madcap situations galore when two men - Jack's father, Sir Francis Chesney (Mark White) and Amy and Kitty's gruff guardian, Stephen Spettigue (Brian Smith) are both smitten by the masquerading aunt, with more complications arising when the real aunt (played by Donna K.W. Johnson) and her young ward, Ela (Laura-Marie Smith) arrive on the scene.
Another standout in the cast is Jason Fouts as Brassett, the mind-of-his-own butler.
Once the pace picks up, audiences will have a jolly good time. Children and youths will also find this an entertaining look at Oxfordian manners of a century ago.
The biggest problem with a show of this size is the scenery. Each of the three acts takes place in an entirely different setting, but Bruner's backstage crew (assisted by some of the actors) make changing the scenery almost as entertaining as the show itself, tossing in musical numbers from late Ray Bolger's famous Broadway musical version, "Where's Charley?"