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Travels with My Aunt

The cast of "Travels With My Aunt." Photo by John Lamb

Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager who finds himself caught up in international intrigue, is the focus of “Travels With My Aunt.”

The brilliantly staged and performed comedy-drama runs through June 23 in an ACT INC production.

Not that Henry is particularly interesting — at least, not at first. But the play — written by Giles Havergal, based on a novel by Graham Greene and directed by Emily Jones — is at once richly theatrical and imaginatively staged.

Henry is portrayed by four actors who take on various other roles with the aid of simple props. And the set design is built on suitcases and trunks. At one point, four suitcases suggest a pair of urinals.

At the heart of the story is Henry’s relationship with his Aunt Augusta, a septuagenarian who proves to be involved in some very problematic business. Encounters with dangerously shadowy characters are not uncommon, and Henry can’t help but be taken aback.

Aunt Augusta, however, takes it all in stride. And rather than being concerned for Henry’s safety, she’s impressed with his ability to adapt to situations for which he’s woefully unprepared.

Jones keeps things moving with a flair for timing and space that borders on choreography. And the actors — Jake Blonstein, Ted Drury, Tim Grumich and Anthony Wininger — persuasively sketch a carousel of characters.

Wininger is terrific as an untrustworthy CIA agent. Grumich, who is also the production’s scenic designer, impressively embodies the redheaded Aunt Augusta with the help of a wig. Drury is at once tenacious and sympathetic as her discarded paramour, Wordsworth. And Blonstein’s take on a wolfhound bearing its teeth is flat-out hilarious.

“Travels With My Aunt” plays in repertory with “Leaving Iowa,” which starts performances Friday.

Calvin Wilson is theater critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.