Junior Akilan Murugesan and sophomore Jaelan Trapp rehearse for the upcoming spring play, "Charley's Aunt." The play, a Victorian-era romantic farce, is one of the most produced plays of all time.

Actors say Victorian cultural nuances make ‘Charley’s Aunt’ a challenge

Junior Akilan Murugesan stops mid-sentence and glances guiltily towards an open script.

“Sorry, line?” he says, dropping the English accent.

It’s just four days away from opening night of “Charley’s Aunt,” and Murugesan hasn’t finished memorizing his lines.

Part of the play’s difficulty, Murugesan explained, is its setting.

Ultimately, “Aunt” is a love story – college students Jack (Murugesan) and Charles (sophomore Jaelan Trapp) are in love with Kitty (junior Gracie Strumpfer) and Amy (sophomore Avi Bhullar), respectively.

Conflict arises when Charley’s aunt doesn’t show up in time to chaperone the couples, so the students rope in a  college guy-friend to dress up and fill in as Charley’s aunt.

Naturally, this leads to some confusion and a lot of comedic moments.

But Murugesan doesn’t take issue with the scatterbrained plot. Instead, he finds the cultural context difficult.

“(Because of the difference in time period), flirting with the girls isn’t overly physical,” he said.

“It’s more minute and subtle.”

Also, in British romantic comedies, the romance is more exaggerated, Murugesan said.

“I have to really show facial expressions, and whenever Kitty walks on stage, my face has to light up.”

Bhullar also finds the Victorian-era cultural context challenging.

“There are a lot of things we do naturally that we wouldn’t do in that time period,” she said.

“We walk prestigiously with our noses up instead of walking straight ahead while slouching.”

Frishman explained that when the cast doesn’t have its lines memorized, they can’t focus as much on these character nuances. And in terms of lines, the actors are about two weeks behind schedule.

“Almost all of the actors don’t memorize their lines until the week of the play,” he said.

On top of that, students also miss multiple rehearsals, Frishman said.

“Occasionally, I’ll have a rehearsal where we’re supposed to have 12 people, and we only have five or six.”

And according to Frishman, there isn’t a solution, as there aren’t enough students to replace those that miss rehearsal.

“At a bigger school, people are chomping at the bit to get the role, and you’d be replaced if you miss two or three rehearsals,” he said.

When students miss rehearsals, instead of directing Frishman has to read lines and sometimes has to act out certain parts.

Moreover, for “Charley’s Aunt,” Frishman had to fill a major role, Lord Fancourt Babberly, with Erich Barnard, an outside actor who frequently collaborates with Country Day’s theater program.

Frishman explained that normally the actors and actresses have 28-32 rehearsals, but Barnard has only six in which to learn his role.

Sophomore Daniel Hernried was originally cast as Barnard but had to drop out because of health issues.

“Daniel has become an excellent actor this year, but with six rehearsals to go, he had to go back to the hospital,” Frishman said.

“It’s a tragedy in a lot of ways.”

But even with the lack of rehearsal attendance and last-minute changes and preparation, Frishman seems relaxed.

“The attitude (I have) just has to be different – (the play) is for everyone to have fun.”

And, “I meditate,” he added.

The play will be showing in the MP room April 10-11, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults.

Cast List 

Stephen Spettigue – Max Schmitz

Colonel Sir Francis Chesney – Austin Talamantes

Jack Chesney – Akilan Murugesan

Charles Wykeham – Jaelan Trapp

Lord Fancourt Babberley – Erich Barnard

Brassett – Christian Van Vleck

Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez – Elinor Hilton

Amy Spettigue – Avi Bhullar

Kitty Verdun – Gracie Strumpfer

Ela Delahay – Mary Jane Garcia and Brenda Alegria

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