With 47 years in the business, the Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) has become accustomed to bringing dynamic and stimulating stories to the stage of Tucson’s historic Temple of Music and Art. Naturally, as seasoned storytellers, the ATC is always an organization that pushes itself to the pinnacle of quality, so what better classical imagination to bring to life than that of fantastic French visionary, Jules Verne? Through March 22, the ATC is bringing one of its most challenging tales to Tucson as the group performs the fantastic voyage depicted in “Around the World in 80 Days”. The play tells the tale of Phileas Fogg (Mark Anders), a gentleman of fortune who places a large bet in favor of his claim that it is quite possible to travel around the world in 80 days. The idea is preposterous, given the crude methods of transportation available in the story’s 1872 backdrop. With the odds stacked against him, Fogg and his faithful sidekick Passepartout (Jon Gentry) embark on a journey by way of steam boat, train, even elephant-back as they attempt to achieve the impossible, meeting their fair share of whimsical and lovely friends along the way. Given the vast and expansive subject matter of “Around the World”, a screenplay that calls for visits to Suez, India, China, San Francisco, Paris, and England through various methods of travel, the play seems to fall just a little bit short. As beautiful (and clever) as the set pieces were, the play harbored an overarching feeling that ATC may have just extended itself a little too far this time. Though the company gave a valiant effort at tackling the daunting task of transforming the stage every few moments, the set design left too much to be desired for the audience, never invoking enough stimulation to spark the imagination. Another oddity for the ATC in their latest production occurs when the company almost pokes fun at their own lack of materials. A prime example of this occurs when the actors are forced to convey to the audience that they are aboard a train by standing single file and making caboose-like body gestures while trudging across stage in front of a small toy locomotive. Moments later, when the train engine is taken by “Indians”, the actors signify this by placing a feather atop the toy. Behavior such as this may draw comparisons to Tucson’s Gaslight Theater, who’s lack of set materials becomes part of the joke, giving off a somewhat “cheesy” vibe. It is acceptable for an off the wall melodramatic theater with audience interaction, but hardly appropriate for such an established (and expensive) theatre group as the ATC. The play’s saving grace is in its actors. A small team of five performers portray the screenplay’s 30 plus characters from all over the globe. Especially impressive were the acting talents of Jon Gentry and Kyle Sorrell. Gentry provides the greater half of the comic relief for “Around the World”, playing Passepartout, the somewhat clueless Frenchman with a heart of gold. Gentry’s performance achieves a fantastic blend between the wordless slapstick of Charlie Chaplan and the eccentric goofiness of Peter Sellers. Sorrell, on the other hand, takes on the brunt of disguise duties called for in the plays script. Sorrel is an ingenious chameleon and marathon man, constantly sneaking off stage, changing costumes, and re-appearing with a new guise and a fresh accent. The Arizona Theatre Company has a repertoire of greatness, and for good reason. But despite incredible acting and a promising storyline, Arizona’s premier theatre group may have just bit off more than they could chew in “Around the World in 80 Days”. The play is not terrible by any means, but it hardly lives up to the high standard set by ATC productions before it. Next time, the group would be wise to stay within the lines of their own abilities.
The world of the spy and secret agents has intrigued audiences across all media. Dashing men in well-fitted suits fire golden bullets, get the girl, and hopefully save the day. Where there is success, there is often parody in the world of entertainment. We are lucky enough to have a brilliant spy-parody, a rarity in television, with a unique twist.“Archer” is an animated, half-hour spy comedy set around the misadventures and sometimes successful missions of a secretive spy organization. The show is staged primarily at the headquarters of ISIS, the International Secret Intelligence Service, based in New York City. Even though each of the many characters brings a uniquely riotous blend of comedy to the show, “Archer” is based around the debonair Sterling Archer, or just Archer. Archer is the top agent at ISIS only because his mother owns the organization, and is a blend of repressed college frat boy and alcoholic gun toting super spy.The show is currently airing its fifth season and this extension will run the show for a sixth and seventh season, potentially ending in 2016 with opportunity for syndication. Two more years on the network comes with an air of confidence as FX executives boasted about the show’s consistent viewership and massive appeal amongst younger age groups. Many a night has been spent by a teenage boy and his buddies watching through an entire season of “Archer”. Seeing as the show has been one of FX’s cornerstones over the past few years and is one of the highest rated shows on basic cable, this move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched the show progress.Behind the hilarious show is a fantastic cast of voice actors, without which the show would have no legs on which to stand. H. Jon Benjamin lends his voice to Sterling Archer and has now picked up doing the voice of Bob on “Bob’s Burgers”. The voice cast also includes Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, Chris Parnell, Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Reed and Lucky Yates.The show’s fifth season has been titled “Archer Vice”, a name that is backed wholly and completely by the events on the show. It does show that viewers love one thing, cocaine and Miami Vice spoofs. The series has already taken Archer and the crew to snow crusted mountains, the African desert, gator infested swamps, and a host of other exotic and often comical locales across the world. With the budget behind operations at ISIS seeming to come from thin air, despite multiple plot lines of budgeting cut-backs, Malory Archer and her rag-tag collective of spies have brought nothing but laughter from viewers for years.With two more seasons of the show already slated to be aired, it will be interesting to see where the writing staff behind “Archer” will be taking the show next.