Rampant theatricality and audience regard traverses "Around the World in 80 Days" at the Actors Co-op.
Since its 2001 premiere, Mark Brown's adroit reduction of Jules Verne's classic globetrotter has become something of a regional staple -- the Colony did a fine production in 2004 -- and its buoyant revival here reminds us why.
Maintaining the core story of punctilious Phileas Fogg and his Victorian-era circumference of the planet on a bet, Brown divides its epic cast of characters among five actors, their onstage navigation of the saga's sprawl the very stuff of theater.
Accordingly, director Rhonda Kohl deftly strikes a balance between narrative sobriety and daft hilarity, never losing the stakes and skirting camp without falling into it.
This approach gleans nonstop invention from the ace designers. David Goldstein's witty set provides one coup de théâtre after another, in tandem with Wendell C. Carmichael's costumes, Krys Fehervari's wigs, David B. Marling's sound and Matthew Taylor's lighting, and Nicholas Acciani's projections are invaluable at keeping us abreast of the course.
So is the wonderful ensemble, whose disciplined abandon and versatility -- at present only rivaled by the "Mine Eyes Hath Seen" crew at Theatre Banshee -- amounts to a group tour de force.
Philip Kreyche is ideal as Fogg, his clipped precision serving as centrifuge for his colleagues, who sail in and out of roles and dialects while keeping their principal assignments distinct.
Andrew Carter has a freewheeling field day as servant Passepartout, pratfalls and tea service inclusive. Eva Abramian brings a tickling wryness to Indian widow Aouda, her diminutive stature against Kreyche's lankiness its own rewarding sight gag.
Company stalwart Bruce Ladd goes for broke in each appearance, particularly his bumptious Detective Fix, and Kevin Coubal attacks nearly 20 roles like a one-man Second City troupe.
Those who demand diversity in casting may bemoan that non-Asian/Indian actors are playing various ethnicities, and some might experience an overload of comic virtuosity. Yet that's what makes "Around the World" such fun. At once elegant and loopy, it's a delightful confection.