The venerable British comedy Charley's Aunt is one of those shows that has been around so long, and is so universally loved, that is considered to be "actor-proof" -- meaning that the show is going to work no matter who is doing it.
At least that was the view before Onstage in Bedford opened its production of the show Friday.
Not much about this production works. This Victorian-era comedy deals with a pair of young Brits who have their hearts set on romance. But to be successful at their wooing and winning, they need the presence of a globe-trotting aunt, who inconveniently fails to show up on time. The resourceful lads, however, solve the problem by drafting a male chum into service to masquerade as the missing relative. And you can probably imagine how messy things get when the real aunt pops up after all.
So obviously, this script is ripe with opportunities for visual and verbal comedy of the quintessentially British variety. But, in this production, not one of those naturally hilarious elements is exploited in the least.
Upon hearing the first lines of the play (which are delivered in an American accent), you think to yourself, "It is not all going to be this bad, is it?" And then it proceeds to get worse. The accents are all over the place.
A couple of the players are almost adequate, but most simply recite their lines (badly) without seeming to understand anything they are saying.
David Ruffin is listed as the director, but there is no evidence of direction. How anyone could have gone ahead with the production is a mystery.
This is an amateur house, so this is a labor of love for the cast. But the theater is charging admission, and the audience should get its money's worth. In this production, it doesn't.
This company has repeatedly demonstrated that it is capable of doing outstanding work. Knowing that, it is hard to understand how it could present a show that is an embarrassment. It is not a fair thing to do to these aspiring thespians or to the audience.