North Coast Repertory Theatre: Actors play a whirlwind of roles in ‘Travels with My Aunt’

In 1969, English author Graham Greene wrote the novel, “Travels with My Aunt.” British playwright and actor Giles Havergal adapted the book and wrote a version for the stage, which opens at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, Wednesday, April 12.

The novel follows the travels of Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager, and his eccentric Aunt Augusta as they find their way across Europe and further afield. He meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time in more than 50 years at his mother’s funeral.

Directed by NCRT’s Artistic Director David Ellenstein, four actors — James Saba, David McBean, Richard Baird and Benjamin Cole — perform the more than 20 roles with different identities, nationalities, ages and genders.

Saba — an actor, director and executive director of San Diego Junior Theatre — said he was excited “Travels with My Aunt” is returning to San Diego, as he starred in it at The Old Globe Theatre in 1997.

“I auditioned for it in New York, for the role of the fourth guy who doesn’t say anything, but didn’t get it,” Saba said. “I knew Craig Noel at The Globe was looking for a project. I was an assistant to him during six shows at The Globe and knew this was right up his alley. I was chosen to play the silent guy, and the one who moves all the furniture and holds up the props. Ever since, I wanted to be in that show again. When I heard David was doing it here, I called and asked to be considered for the Aunt role, and I got it!”

Saba continued, “It’s a very concentrated piece about an hour-and-a-half long, but it’s a whirlwind. We go to places like Istanbul, Brighton, Paris, two places in South America — and that all takes place in couple of months, and all we have is a few prop pieces. We’re named Actor 1, 2, 3 and 4. We all play Henry, the protagonist, a 55-year-old bank manager who has never done anything exciting with his life even 20 miles from where he lives.”

Becoming knowledgeable about Greene’s work, Saba said the author has his own type of audience. “The story is fun for a person who has an imagination, one who appreciates an actor’s range and versatility, someone who loves to be taken on a journey through a play, and one that might become inspired to take a few more risks in life,” Saba said.

“There is also a surprise when Henry learns something quite significant about his Aunt throughout this journey, which happens after developing a relationship with her, because he hasn’t seen her since he was a baby.”

IF YOU GO: “Travels with My Aunt” is onstage April 15 through May 7 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets from $46. Student rush tickets available 15 minutes before curtain at $15. (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org

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