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North Fourth’s ‘Aunt’ makes demands on cast

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Travels With My Aunt” corrals four actors on one stage playing 23 characters.

Scottish dramatist Giles Havergal’s adaptation of the Graham Greene comic novel demands lightning transformations. Actors must morph from a 58-year-old banker into a 14-year-old girl, from Italian accents to Afrikaans, from men into women and from women into men.

West End Productions will open the play at the North Fourth Art Center on Friday, March 1. It runs on weekends through March 17.

Four middle-aged men, each dressed in a black suit and bowler hat, sit facing the audience. They unspool the odyssey of a very dull retired banker who reunites with his 75-year-old aunt at his mother’s cremation.

Instantaneous gestures and tonal inflections are mandatory signal character changes.

“To add to the confusion, all four may play the same character at the same time,” said Cy Hoffman, co-director of the play with his wife, Jane.

“That’s what intrigued us with the play,” he said. “It’s very tricky, because the actors have to play women, British, Turks, Italians and black Africans, all without costume changes.”

Aunt Augusta is as eccentric as her nephew is reserved. He prefers to stay home pruning his dahlias. She boasts a voracious sexual appetite, as well as a casual disregard for money, much less conventional morality. Yet she coaxes Henry from his suburban prison.

“His aunt is a wild woman,” Hoffman said. “She travels all over the world smuggling money.”

First they travel to that veddy British holiday destination Brighton. Next they’re boarding the Orient Express to Istanbul.

The play stars Albuquerque’s Kenneth Ansloan, Colleen Neary McClure, Tim MacAlpine and Harry Zimmerman.

“Travels With My Aunt” was first performed at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, in 1989. It has since run on stages in London, New York and San Francisco. A 1972 film version of Greene’s book starred Maggie Smith as Aunt Augusta.