‘Charley’s Aunt’ brings classic comedy confusion

The comedy opened June 3 and runs until June 19.

“Charley’s Aunt” has arrived at Whidbey Playhouse Community Theater.

Written in 1892 by Brandon Thomas, the three-act farce is about Oxford undergraduates Charley and Jack wanting to propose to their romantic interests. In order for the girls to be able to come visit, there needs to be a female chaperone present. The boys are counting on Charley’s aunt, who is visiting from Brazil and who Charley has never met, to chaperone the visit. When she says she can’t come, they rope their friend Fancourt Babberly into donning women’s clothing and impersonating her.

However, the real aunt eventually shows up and hilarity ensues.

The comedy opened June 3 and runs until June 19.

Babberly is played by AJ Gibson, who recently turned 18 and has done a lot with theater over the years — mainly acting in productions at Oak Harbor High School. Gibson had previously only acted in children’s theater and auditioned for the show to gain some more experience.

“Because I’m going to college to study acting, I thought it would be a good idea to be in a show with some professional adult actors who’ve been doing this for a long time and see what I can learn from them,” Gibson said.

Throughout the production, Gibson falls out of chairs, is dragged around by Charley and Jack, and at one point, gets thrown over a table.

“People should probably come see it because it’s just very funny to see two older gentlemen trying to flirt with me when I’m clearly a young, masculine-presenting person, especially when one of the older gentlemen is my in real-life father,” Gibson said. “He has to propose to me at a certain point, so that’s interesting to play through.”

Gibson’s dad, Dr. David Gibson, plays Frances Chesney – the love interest of the real aunt.

“That’s what lured me, the opportunity to be in a play with them,” said Dr. Gibson. “Because this is really the only time that could ever happen because they’re going off to college in the fall.”

Chris Mitachi plays Jack, the driving force of the play. This is Mitachi’s first time on stage at the Playhouse. He is originally from Brazil and used to work as an actor in Los Angeles. Part of his motivation to audition for “Charley’s Aunt” was that the play has a lot of references to his home country of Brazil, as that’s where the aunt is visiting from.

“It’s very familiar to me to have so many references about Brazil and all that, so I felt like it was the perfect opportunity for me to audition,” he said.

Mitachi described the Playhouse staff and his fellow cast mates as welcoming and friendly and that it feels “like home.”

“Charley’s Aunt” is director Dave Frazer’s third show at the Playhouse. He said that the show almost didn’t happen as six out of the twelve of the cast, including the director and stage manager, had COVID and lost a week of rehearsals.

“Last night was the first time we went maskless,” Frazer said.

When “Charley’s Aunt” first came out, the play was extremely successful.

“It was on stage for four years in London which was unheard of back then,” he said. “So it was a very popular play.”

Every cast member spoke about how much fun putting together this show was.

“It’s been a great cast to work with. The biggest problem I had for a long time was getting them to stop laughing,” Frazer said. “It’s like, ‘the audience is supposed to laugh at this, you’re not supposed to laugh at this!’ But we’ve overcome that.”

Frazer described the play as family friendly and encourages everyone to come see it.

“Especially in this day and age, for the last two years where people have been withdrawn, they haven’t been very happy, they haven’t had any reason to laugh,” Frazer said. “If you go out to this play, you’ll have a reason to laugh.”

Father, Dr. David Gibson and son, AJ Gibson act opposite each other. (Photo by Rachel Rosen/Whidbey News-Times)
L-R Jared Bryant, Chris Matochi, TIna Magnoli, AJ Gibson, Shealyn Christie (Photo by Rachel Rosen/Whidbey News-Times).
L-R: the real aunt played by Sarah Gallella and Shelby Montoya plays her adopted niece.