BY RENEE BUCKLEY
Photo courtesy of Marvin Garcia. Austin Berry playing Charley Wykeham and Aaron Ortega playing Jack Chesney in “Charley’s Aunt.”
Over the past two weeks at the Pollock Theatre, “Charley’s Aunt,”a record-breaking play was written by Brandon Thomas entertained audiences during 6 shows performed at College of the Desert. The fall play was directed by COD Theatre Instructor Janet Miller, who put a Roadrunner spin on the 1892 classic. The story revolved around two young scholars, Jack Chesney and Charley Wykeham, who are in love and are going to use Charley’s rich aunt, to find success, not in wealth, but in love.
The play opened with Jack Chesney (played by Aaron Ortega) writing a love letter to Kitty, (pleaded by Ellie Roth) when he is interrupted by his friend Charley Wykeham,(played by Austin Berry), who tells of how his aunt, Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, is coming to visit. The aunt, who Charley has never met, becomes a scapegoat for the boys in many ways, as the boys use her visit as a way to have their love interests for lunch, by saying they can meet her. Jack even tries to get his dad to marry her as they face financial hardships in hopes of her solving them.
The problems and comedy begin when D’Alvadorez sends a telegram notifying that she is a couple of days behind, but everyone is already invited for lunch. The boys think quickly and decide the best action is to try to get their friend, Lord Fancourt Babberley, Babs to impersonate Charley’s Aunt into drag so he can convince everyone that he is Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez. He finally agrees to do it, after understanding that they need this in the name of love, as he lost a lover in Monte Carlo and it still haunts him.
The play uses its comedic prowess as a way to solve all of its own issues and engages the audience in a way that makes everyone feel involved in the storyline. Though in the end when the real Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez, shows up, everyone ends up finding love, even Babberley, as his secret love from Monte Carlo, turns out to be Donnas adopted niece.
The play seemed to hit all its marks as the theater was filled with laughter and excitement the whole night. COD student Chris Hernandez said, “I did not really expect it to be as good as it was, but I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time. I felt like I was there with them in the scene, talking to my friends having a laugh.”
Aaron Ortega, who played Jack Chesney, said the audience was a key part of the performance. “The play turned out better than I could have imagined and that’s always ideal with any production I’m apart of. An audience can drastically change the dynamic of a situation. Things and bits you thought were funny, turn out to be dry, and awkward moments were actually hilarious.”
COD’s theater department is working on their next production the spring play, “Crimes of the Heart.” There will be 6 performances March 16, 17, 22 and 23 at 7 p.m. and March 17 and 24 at 3 p.m. in Theatre Too. Auditions will be held in Theatre Too Nov. 27 & 29 from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. For more information contact Janet Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.